Are Friends Electric? by Helen Heath – poetry reviewby Nicholas Reid
Helen Heath's new collection probes some big questions.
A section of “found poems” finds her deftly transforming other people’s words by putting them into new contexts. The science finds its way into the sequence Strandbeests, an engrossing reflection on human-made concepts and imagined evolutionary processes. Even more telling is the prose poem The Anthropocene, with its dense reflection on how evolution relates us to birds. Throughout the collection, a consistent train of images links us human beings to the cyber world and to artificial intelligence, implicitly questioning how unique human consciousness is.
So are friends really electric?
The more confessional tone of this collection is found in the section called “Reprogramming the Heart". Most of its poems are in the first person, dealing with pregnancy, birth, motherhood and widowhood, among other things. Once again, Heath’s style is polished and her expression is clear, with few words wasted. The whole tragedy of bereavement is pushed into the 12 terse lines of the poem That’s It, very typical of Heath’s tone at her best – matter-of-fact, apparently objective, but leading to a major revelation, an emotional abyss.
ARE FRIENDS ELECTRIC? by Helen Heath (Victoria University Press, $25)
This article was first published in the August 18, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Forcing children to finish everything on their plates sets them up for a bad relationship with food.Read more
The policies announced at Act’s relaunch are mostly standard party fare, but freedom of expression is an issue that could pull in new voters.Read more
Oranga Tamariki's inquiry into its attempt to take a newborn baby from its mother at Hawke's Bay Hospital will not be released to the public in full.Read more
Stephanie Johnson likes a good story and she’s found one in a collection of colourful Kiwis who made their mark in Australia.Read more
Diamonds and books are New Zealand designer Jessica McCormack’s best friends.Read more
In a delightful film about a father whose life has come unstuck after a contentious Scrabble game, Bill Nighy is superb.Read more
In the return of the West family saga, it’s 1987 and Ted West and the gang are waiting to rob a safe.Read more