More understated but no less powerful than both of these collections [Sophie Hannah Pessimism for Beginners
, Frances Leviston Public Dream
] is Isobel Dixon's A Fold in the Map
(Salt, £12.99), which includes a poignant retelling of her father's illness and decline. Dixon's own graceful style provides soothing contrast to the bewilderment and indignity her father suffers. (Natalie Whittle FT Weekend Magazine
Isobel Dixon is fully in command of the poetic tools at her disposal. In her hands form and content intertwine naturally, never allowing the reader's attention to wane. Intelligent and sensuous, Dixon's poetry has the wonderful quality of being able to hold the essence of a variety of moods, places and people, which many readers, whether poetry lovers or not, will find engrossing. (Karina Magdalena Szczrek Sunday Independent (South Africa)
Maybe there was something in the water in Umtata, but Isobel Dixon was born with the gift of lyricism as natural speech. A measure of her accomplishment is that all the sense impressions of Africa, even if the reader has never actually been there, live naturally in her poetry as if it were the only landscape. The vivid surroundings of her childhood got into her rhythms and her phrases. A second, perhaps sadder story, springs from that. She is looking back to something lost, even as she continues to engage in the history of the land where she was born. She has the language for her political situation, too, and for a third story, about her father’s death, she has the language of deep grief – a longing, beyond mere nostalgia, for both a childhood and a homeland. If the last vestiges of the old Empire have produced a new kind of exile, she is the way it speaks. (Clive James)
… a contemporary, accessible lyricism. … characterised by sensuous natural imagery … Dixon’s gift is in the presentation of such a palpable, earthy presence and its accordant pathos of memory or displacement. (James Tink PN Review
Isobel Dixon portrays people and places, and a sense of displacement, in sensuous yet meticulous detail. In these poems she celebrates creatures and landscapes in contrasting climates and cultures, her sharp perceptions invested with yearning and humour – and an aura of wonder. (Stewart Conn)
Poems that bring a sensual physicality together with lively, startling imagery. (Mail and Guardian, South Africa
About the Author
Isobel Dixon has been described by Clive James as being ‘born with the gift of lyricism as natural speech’ and by J M Coetzee as ‘a poet confident in her mastery of her medium.’ Her poems have appeared in publications like The Paris Review, The Guardian, Penguin’s Poems for Love and The Forward Book of Poetry. Salt published A Fold in the Map in 2007. www.isobeldixon.com
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Meet My Father
Meet my father, who refuses food —
pecks at it like a bird or not at all —
the beard disguising his thin cheeks.
This, for a man whose appetite was legend,
hoovering up the scraps his daughters couldn’t eat.
The dustbin man, we joked.
And here he is, trailing his fork
through food we’ve laboured to make soft,
delicious, sweet. Too salty, or too tough,
it tastes of nothing, makes him choke,
he keeps insisting, stubbornly.
In truth, the logic’s clear. His very life
is bitter and the spice it lacks is hope.
He wants to stop. Why do we keep on
spooning dust and ashes down his throat?