Getting to know 2024 DHA shortlistee, Rhian Healy

DHA2024 Interview Rhian Healy Samantha Hearn The Dorothy Hewett Award

My Heart is a Plastic Shoe is an unpublished poetry collection centred around the natural world, family bonds and relationships, and is shortlisted for the 2024 Dorothy Hewett Award. In this mini-interview, Healy shares what it feels like to be shortlisted and the motivation behind the collection 


Rhian Healy headshot

Rhian Healy is a Perth based writer with a fascination for the absurd. His poems have won the 2022 Philippa Holland Award for Poetry, the 2023 June Shenfield National Poetry Competition, the 2023 Annette Cameron PoetryAward, and have placed or been commended in the South Coast Writers Poetry Award, the Ros Spencer Poetry Award, and the Katharine Susannah Prichard Poetry Competition. 


This collection explores the intertwined themes of our connection to the natural world, our complex family bonds, and the beginnings and endings of relationships. Using the juxtaposition of the serious with the absurd, the lyrical with the direct, the poems in this collection interrogate our place in the world and the fractures where our relationships start and end. And there are a lot of bird references. The 2024 Dorothy Hewett Award judges describe My Heart is a Plastic Shoe as "a collection of poetry that explores the beauty, tenacity and wilfulness of mother earth and her bounties. Even a quick scan of its titles tell us that there will be odes about cabbage moths, flying fish, wattlebirds and birds of paradise. It sensitively captures the moods and impulses of humans and other living specimens." 

UWA Publishing intern, Samantha Hearn, interviewed Rhian about his shortlisting: 

Samantha: How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Dorothy Hewett Award? 

Rhian: Firstly, I was surprised. I hadn't expected to be shortlisted. I submitted mainly for the deadline - something to work towards and prepare the manuscript for, but when I heard the news, I was excited. And relieved – that all the work was worth it. It is a big prestigious national prize, so it is quite exciting to be nominated for it. 

S: When did you start writing poetry? 

R: I first started writing poetry when I was in university in the 1990s, but it was very bad and I gave it away for about 25 years. I took it up again in 2019 after reading Renee Pettit-Schipp's The Sky Runs Right Through Us and realising how poetry can capture moments with such clarity and breathlessness. I started doing workshops about poetry, writing and submitting to journals and competitions and continuing to edit and hone my work. I love writing poetry because it can describe everyday emotions and the simple human pleasures of living with great vividness and precision, and it works on many dimensions. It allows for virtuosity of language, variation of form, the utilisation of rhythm and rhyme, and even the visual manipulation of space on the page. I also like writing poetry because a finished work is a much smaller and more achievable goal than a prose piece and therefore I feel it is easier to accomplish.  

S: What was the motivation behind writing My Heart is a Plastic Shoe? 

R: After you have written one poem, the next natural step is to write another one, and then another one and before you know it you have a collection. After I've thrown away the hundreds of very bad poems, this selection is what's left. My intention, when I write poems, is to (mostly) err on the side of comprehensibility for the reader. I hope that people, when they read the poems, will see something of themselves in them. 


My Heart is a Plastic Shoe is an unpublished poetry manuscript shortlisted for the 2024 Dorothy Hewett Award. The winner will be announced in June. Find out more about the 2024 Dorothy Hewett Award shortlist including the official media release.

Samantha Hearn is a Curtin University student who is in her final semester of postgraduate studies, completing an MA of Arts, majoring in Professional Writing and Publishing. She has a love for reading, writing and literature (specifically in the fiction genres) and has a passion to work within the publishing industry.  

Samantha Hearn | LinkedIn



Check out our interviews with the other 5 shortlisted writers:

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