Heid E. Erdrich

b. 1963
Heid E. Erdrich
Poet Heid E. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and raised in nearby Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her Ojibwe mother and German American father taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. She earned a BA from Dartmouth College and two MAs from the Johns Hopkins University, in poetry and fiction.
 
Erdrich’s poetry often explores themes of indigenous culture, mothering, and the natural world, using the cadence of oral storytelling and a close attention to sound and meter to drive poems rich with sensory and dreamlike imagery. Erdrich is the author of several poetry collections, including National Monuments (2008), winner of the Minnesota Book Award; The Mother’s Tongue (2005), part of Salt Publishing’s award-winning Earthworks Series of Native American and Latin American literature; and Fishing for Myth (1997). In a 2006 review, Twin Cities Daily Planet critic Erin Lynn Marsh described The Mother’s Tongue as “an exploration of our culture’s relationship with the term ‘mother’ and of the beginnings of language.”
 
With Laura Tohe, Erdrich co-edited the anthology Sister Nations: Native American Women on Community (2002). Her own work has been featured in numerous anthologies, including Motives for Writing (2005, edited by Robert Keith Miller), Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework (2005, edited by Pamela Gemin), and American Poetry: The Next Generation (2000, edited by Gerald Costanzo and Jim Daniels).
 
Erdrich has received fellowships and awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Loft Literary Center, and the Archibald Bush Foundation. She has served as a mentor for the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, for which she was named Mentor of the Year in 2003.
 
With her sister, the writer Louise Erdrich, she founded the Turtle Mountain Writing Workshop. In 2008 the sisters co-founded Birchbark House, a foundation that serves as a clearinghouse for literature engaged with indigenous languages. The sisters describe their vision on the foundation’s website: “We foresee a vital return to our Native American languages through the efforts of elders that are already underway. In creating ways to keep their words alive, through books, films, teaching and more, we will keep our languages viable and more, we will allow the means for creative fluency, the hallmark of a fully living language.”
 
Erdrich taught at the University of St. Thomas for more than a decade before leaving her tenured post in 2007 to focus on her writing and her work with Birchbark House. She lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

LIFE SPAN 1963–

Heid E. Erdrich

Biography

Poet Heid E. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and raised in nearby Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her Ojibwe mother and German American father taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. She earned a BA from Dartmouth College and two MAs from the Johns Hopkins University, in poetry and fiction.
 
Erdrich’s poetry often explores themes of indigenous culture, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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