Heath, Helen

Heath, Helen


Primary publisher
Victoria University Press

In Brief

Helen Heath is a poet whose work is curious and clear-eyed in its investigation of both scientific and domestic worlds, and seeks to question where they overlap and intersect. Her debut poetry collection Graft was published in 2012 and received several awards for science writing, as well as the Jessie McKay award for Best First Book of Poetry in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Her second collection, Are Friends Electric?, won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand book awards.Heath has actively collaborated with crafters, textile makers and other visual artists to produce poetry that both responds to and triggers new work in other mediums and forms. Her poetry has been published in journals in New Zealand, the UK, USA, and Australia.


Heath, Helen (1970 – ) is a Wellington-based poet. Her first publication, a chapbook entitled Watching the Smoke, came out with Seraph Press (2009), and her debut poetry collection Graft was published by Victoria University Press in 2012.

Graft won the Jessie McKay Best First Book Award for Poetry in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book awards. Graft’s multiple layers are well signaled by its title – the collection investigates notions of digging, deceit, work and death, as well as of healing, familial allegiance and inheritance. It is also animated by a deep curiosity about science and scientists, and medicine’s relation to the human body. Graft’s scientific bent has been recognized widely: the poem ‘Making Tea in the Universe’ won the inaugural Science Teller Poetry award in 2011 and the collection as a whole was shortlisted for the bi-annual Royal Society Science Book prize 2013 (making it the first ever poetry or fiction book to be shortlisted). Graft’s publication was also marked by inclusion in two well-known ‘best of’ lists – the NZ Listener’s Top 100 Books in 2012, and Best New Zealand Poems 2012.

Her second collection, Are Friends Electric? (2018), offers up visions of the past, the present and the future, mediated by technology, while exploring how technology intersects with our experiences of grief, loss and intimacy. Are Friends Electric? won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand book awards.

Reviewers have noted the collection’s hybrid metaphorical strands, and the attention the poems pay to domestic, physical and spiritual worlds. Hamesh Wyatt described Heath’s work as 'assertive, exciting, daring and captivating.' Writing for The Landfall Review Tim Upperton commented, 'As a whole, this collection gleams with intelligence and insight.'

Heath holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters.


Updated January 2017.