Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Writer Heather Derr-Smith created a video poem reading Joanna C. Valente’s poem as part of a project where Smith reads work by other poets. The video uses footage from Kiss Me Deadly, Gilda, an excerpt of G force by Ciccone Youth, as well as images from Socorro Mission, Socorro Texas. You can watch the video below - and read the poem below the video.



I just want 


who is not me 

I just want


who does not choke me

or slap me so hard

that I forget 


                                                                                    I am worthy

of unchoosing pain

              I am allowed

to choose my bully 

and when I want

my bully to ruin 


                                                              me like a teacup without


handles, nothing to grip,


                                    nothing to scrape


along the edges like a bad

date you smoke to forget


                                                              the want of your mind


and when I tell you I want

    nothing more than the ability

to be


     and speak my truth,



believe me.


Heathen/Heather Derr-Smith was born in Dallas, Texas in 1971. S(he) spent most of (he)r childhood in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Derr-Smith earned a B.A. in Art History at the University of Virginia, where she also took poetry workshops with Charles Wright, Rita Dove, and Greg Orr.  Heather went on to earn an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published three books of poems, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005), The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008) and Tongue Screw (Sparkwheel Press, 2016). Their fourth collection, Thrust won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize at Persea Books (2017).

Derr-Smith is Sufi & genderqueer and her work deals with trauma, both personal and geopolitical.  Derr-Smith leads poetry workshops in conflict zones and post-conflict zones with survivors of violence, war, and the international migration/refugee crisis.  She has worked in refugee camps and with IDP’s in Syria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Eastern Ukraine as well as advocacy for gun-violence survivors and refugees/migrants in the United States, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, and Czech Republic.

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, No(body), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Them, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente