Shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2013, NZ Listener top 100 pick, 2012.
To graft something is to fix two things together like tree branches or skin to heal or grow something new. The word graft originates from the Old Norse groftr, meaning to dig, and is also linked with the verb grave, an ancient Germanic one also meaning to dig.
The poems in Graft attempt to bring things together ideas and cultures, people, sometimes to heal. Sometimes there are unlikely pairs: science and magical thinking, fact and fiction, myth and history. Sometimes there are more predictable pairings with less predictable outcomes - mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They dig away at things, trying to find a truth or an answer or a lost person. What we find is often not what we are looking for.
Helen Heath's poems are more than usually aware of the exits and entrances that shape us: they shuttle between past and present, shroud and wedding gown, the lives we lead and the lives we aspire to. Sometimes they do their digging in tough or broken terrain, but they are always alert for points of continuity, connection, and wholeness. - Bill Manhire
Graft was the first book of poetry or fiction to be shortlisted for the bi-annual Royal Society Science Book Prize in 2013.
“Helen Heath seats poems that are explicitly about science and scientists alongside poems that explore a more internal world of family, emotion and travel. In doing so she blurs boundaries and masterfully reminds us that science is not a separate and remote entity but is part of the vital continuum of life, and that indeed science itself encompasses many aspects from the social to the physical” – Judges comments, NZ Science Book Prize 2013.
“this collection gleams with intelligence and insight…demonstrates a singular vision, an assurance, and a technical facility that are deeply impressive. – Tim Upperton, Landfall.
“The sequence offers a quiet gathering of sensory impressions: the accumulation of knowledge and experience itself a kind of healing. There is a lovely, comic twist when a Greek host and guide interprets the wish to delve into the past as a more literal, touristy ambition to head off on an archaeological dig. The carefully ambiguous closing sections let the physical dig shift into dreamlike passages, where the atheistic view is still pursued by deep longing” – Emma Neale, NZ Listener.
"Helen Heath's new collection, Graft is a joy to read. Afraid of neither ideas nor feeling, the poems refresh both past and present." – Paula Green.
“[A]n impressive and focused collection.” – Nadine France, NZ Books.
“Her poems are assertive, exciting, daring and captivating. This is a new poet with everything to prove.” – Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times.