Derek Sheffield’s collection Not for Luck was selected by Mark Doty for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. His other books include Through the Second Skin, runner-up for the Emily Dickinson First Book Award and finalist for the Washington State Book Award, A Revised Account of the West, winner of the Hazel Lipa Environmental Chapbook Award judged by Debra Marquart, and A Mouthpiece of Thumbs (Blue Begonia Press). He is a co-editor, with Simmons Buntin and Elizabeth Dodd, of Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy and, with Liz Bradfield and CMarie Fuhrman, Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry.
He is the recipient of the James Hearst Poetry Prize judged by Li-Young Lee, fellowships from Artist Trust, the Spring Creek Project, Allied Arts, 4Culture, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and a Special Mention in the 2016 Pushcart Prize Anthology. Vijay Seshadri chose his poem as the sole finalist for the 2018 Lynda Hull Memorial Award and he was a finalist for the 2023 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize judged by Jacqueline Johnson.
His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Poetry, Orion, The Georgia Review, AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, Rattle, Alaska Quarterly Review, Plant-Human Quarterly, High Country News, The North American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sugar House Review, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hampden Sydney Poetry Review, Anglers Journal, The Flyfish Journal, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and on NPR’s Poetry Moment, and have been part of many anthologies, including The Wonder of Small Things: Poems of Peace & Renewal, Leaning Toward Light: Poems for Gardens & the Hands That Tend Them, New Poets of the American West, The Ecopoetry Anthology, Nature and Environmental Writing: A Guide and Anthology, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, The World Is Charged: Poetic Engagements with Gerard Manley Hopkins, and River of Memory: The Everlasting Columbia.
Derek was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up there and in Gig Harbor, Washington. The first in his family to attend college, he now lives on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range near Leavenworth, Washington, where he can often be found in the woods or along Icicle Creek. His two daughters have come to know many of the beings of their bioregion and can often be found making their own poems and paintings. You can find some of their work in Rattle.
He is the poetry editor of Terrain.org.
Teaching and Presenting
Derek teaches in Western Colorado University’s low-residency MFA program, and he is a professor of English at Wenatchee Valley College, where he serves as co-chair of the Sustainability Committee with geographer Dr. Joan Qazi, and with biologist Dr. Dan Stephens, teaches Northwest Nature Writing, a learning community that blends the study of field ecology with writing. He has won the WVC Excellence in Teaching Award a record five times and has twice served as the commencement speaker by request of the students. In 2016, by a vote of his colleagues, he won the Linda Schultz Herzog Faculty Member of the Year Award. His students have gone on to earn MFA degrees from the University of Washington, Pacific University, University of Idaho, Institute of American Indian Arts, Eastern Washington University, Bennington, Rainier Writing Program, and Goddard.
In May of 2022, he gave the keynote address for the Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, “A Thousand Blended Notes: A Life of Birds and Poems.” He has also presented and taught at many conferences and universities, including AWP, ASLE, WLA, CCHA, Cascadia Poetry Festival, Skagit River Poetry Festival, Get Lit!, LitFuse, Fishtrap, Orcas Island Lit Fest, Beargrass Writing Retreat, Sowell Collection Conference, Gonzaga University, Southern Utah University, and the University of Washington. He has been a visiting faculty member of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts low-residency MFA program and of the English Department at Central Washington University. In cooperation with Humanities Washington and the Great Books Foundation, he has worked with veterans in central Washington through discussion groups focused on the literature of war.