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In The Tempest Prognosticator leeches warn of storms, whales blunder up the Thames, beetles tap out their courtship rituals, and women fall for deft cocktail makers and melancholy apes. With her keen eye and a gift for vividly capturing the natural world, Isobel Dixon entices the reader on a journey where the familiar is not always as it seems at first, where the sideways glance, the double take, yields rich rewards.
From Cape Town to Nagasaki, the Congo to the Karoo, creatures real and surreal flit, and peck and spin fantastic webs across the page. In this finely-spun collection real-life explorers Robert Byron and Mary Kingsley have encounters both dangerous and humorous, we venture inside Alfred Hitchcock’s ominous Psycho house, and find Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on the moon. Desire and loss are refracted through the writings of naturalist-poet Eugene Marais and Shakespeare, through the art of Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois and Henri Rousseau, through Pink Floyd’s music and Fred Astaire’s footwork, and with each page of this ‘ingenious carousel’ a poet’s vision of a world of art and nature emerges — stormy, celebratory, revelatory. This is a collection filled with ‘miracle and wonder’, wit and bite, a generous feast of words.
‘In this virtuoso collection, the work of a poet confident in her mastery of her medium, Isobel Dixon moves easily from dialogues with the animal world to mordant ventriloquizings of the female self.’ —J M Coetzee
‘Isobel Dixon’s poetry possesses exquisite vigour, panache and a resourceful, ranging intelligence. Like the title poem, The Tempest Prognosticator is an ‘ingenious carousel’ of a book. Life-affirming, funny, almost liquid in the movement of language, yet the book shifts with such apparent ease into darkness. Isobel Dixon’s work has natural authority; the reader trusts her to get the details right.’ —David Morley
‘Frogs, birds, bats, baboons, monkeys, peacocks, lizards and boars leap, crawl, shimmer and swoop through Isobel Dixon's lusciously feral and finely crafted poems. The Tempest Prognosticator signals so many fresh, often surreal, insights; with its bold, eclectic approach to the traditional and the experimental, and irreverent juxtapositions of subject matter and form, it's a wake-up call to the imagination and the senses and suggests myriad possibilities of what a poem can do and be.’ —Catherine Smith
‘Frogs, birds, bats, baboons, monkeys, peacocks, lizards and boars leap, crawl, shimmer and swoop through Isobel Dixon's lusciously feral and finely crafted poems; while moths 'crash the party,' the ostriches of Struzzi are 'Shabby ballerinas/all gone at the knees' and a whale shows up in the Thames 'one wintry Friday, come to visit us.' And the human zoo is no less intriguing. The Tempest Prognosticator signals so many fresh, often surreal, insights; with its bold, eclectic approach to the traditional and the experimental, and irreverent juxtapositions of subject matter and form, it's a wake-up call to the imagination and the senses and suggests myriad possibilities of what a poem can do and be.’ —Catherine Smith
‘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.’ —Clive James
‘Isobel Dixon’s poetry moves from observation or memory to metaphor in a silky glide … with a beautifully controlled surrealism that shapes and narrates internal states.’ —Shaun de Waal, Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
‘Most striking is Dixon’s penchant for short powerful bursts of insight or reflection. She knows when enough is enough and the word choice of her free verse often commands some powerful imagery … This is a modern poet in fine command of her art.’ —Dan Szczesny, The Hippo (USA)
‘A contemporary, accessible lyricism … characterised by sensuous natural imagery.’ —James Tink, PN Review
‘Isobel Dixon’s work is characterised as much by her strong lyrical voice as by her central preoccupations of settlement, exploration and selfhood … Dixon confidently moves from sharply pitched observations in shorter verse to elegantly expressive longer pieces … There are strong hints in her work that she has much more to say and there is no one better placed, or rather, displaced, to say it.’ —Alex Pryce, Contemporary Writers
‘A precision reminiscent of Szymborska … What characterises Dixon’s poetry most poignantly is its accessibility, which should not be mistaken for simplicity. Written in free verse, her work exudes ease and unpretentiousness. 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 Szczurek, Sunday Independent (South Africa)
‘Isobel Dixon’s gift is to bring the same exactitude to the rendering of physical detail as she does to the awesome pit-face of human grief. The intimate details of her personal history are reported with congeniality and with admirable control.’ —Tim Liardet
‘Fine, warm, sensuous poems which deal boldly with both the light and dark sides of family life and with the many manifestations and resonances of grief’ —Kate Clanchy
‘Another lyrical voice is Isobel Dixon, whose A Fold in the Map has a powerful section charting the illness and death of her father.’ —Elaine Feinstein, The Times
‘When my father died a few years ago I was totally inconsolable and found comfort only in books – especially books of poetry such as Isobel Dixon’s A Fold in the Map, in which she writes about the death of her father.’ —Grethe Fox, Femina
‘More understated but no less powerful than [Sophie Hannah and Frances Leviston’s collections] is Isobel Dixon's A Fold in the Map, 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.’ —Nathalie Whittle, Financial Times
‘The freight of memory and love and loss coalesce into profoundly moving elegy; these are "stigmata for my father / and his panel-beaten heart".’ —Shaun de Waal, Mail and Guardian (South Africa)
‘Isobel Dixon shows great accessible range with this refreshing and exhilarating collection. Nature, real and unreal, is evoked as the poet perfectly captures a world where not all is as it seems and where nature and art intersect with a wonderfully pleasing outcome. We find Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on the moon, whilst Hirst, Marais and Rousseau are invoked to aid the collection’s overarching themes of loss and despair. A brilliantly surreal collection, THE TEMPEST PROGNOSTICATOR will appeal to readers for its invention, wide-ranging allusions and playful (and sometimes painful) explorations of the modern self through a rich tapestry of nature and culture.’ —Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Autumn 2011