Forbidden Fruit: a meditation on science, technology and natural history

Posted on December 29, 2012


Heathcote Williams is a story teller best known for his epic poems such as ‘Whale Nation’ and ‘Autogeddon’. His latest collection of sixteen poems described as a ‘meditation on science technology and natural history’ reflects this story telling skill. It is by turns topical, political and personal. ‘Being kept by a jackdaw’ is a delightful personal reflection on how a bird can take over your life and then gradually become more independent, one day never to return. ‘Wasp honey’ ranges from the insights the Chinese got from wasps chewing wood to make their paper nests and their invention of paper to the fascist Argentinian junta of the 1970’s and the global decline of bees.

The poem from which the book takes it title, ‘Forbidden fruit: or the cybernetic apple core’ is a very moving tribute to our greatest computer scientist Alan Turing, his life and ultimately suicide by taking a single bite from a cyanide-laced apple. Apparently the bitten apple of Apple’s logo is a homage to his memory. Williams doesn’t shy away from contemporary debates about the labour conditions that are to be found in the factories in China where the Apple I-pads are manufactured, either.

Tender, provocative and surprising, every poem in this collection crosses mental boundaries and make connections readers will be enriched by.

A shorter version of this review appeared in the Guardian review section on 29 December 2012