A Bit about Me and My Work
My newest full collection Bearings is published by Nine Arches Press in the UK and Modjaji Books in South Africa (both in 2016). Nine Arches also re-issued my earlier collections A Fold in the Map and The Tempest Prognosticator in 2018.
Also in 2016, Edinburgh-based Mariscat Press published The Leonids, a pamphlet of 17 poems centred around my force-of-nature mother, Ann Dixon, who died in 2015.
I also love commissions and what you can learn from them, like contributing to Michael McKimm's anthology MAP: Poems After William Smith's Geological Map of 1815, which fed my fascination with maps. In 2017 I was pleased to be part of another Worple Press anthology, The Tree Line: Poems for Trees, Wood & People, celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest.
I am also currently working on a long-running collaboration with Scottish artist Douglas Robertson, inspired by DH Lawrence's poems in Birds, Beasts and Flowers. I will be posting more details and images from this project very soon. It's been a slow-burning obsession for some years, as Doug and I juggle other work, but also one of the most satisfying endeavours I’ve been involved with so far. The poetry and art will be supplement by music when we reach the exhibition and performance stage, as the centenary of Lawrence’s collection approaches.
You can read more about these and other publications (like joint work on the sinking of RMS Titanic, The Debris Field and taking part in the Psycho Poetica project) on this site, along with details of forthcoming readings, some poems and the odd snippet of news.
For more on both my publishing life and my poetry, here is Jaco Botha's interview for LitNet, The People Behind the Books and an interview by Alexander Matthews in the online magazine Aerodrome.
If you like Twitter, I'm @isobeldixon, where I'll also occasionally share some news.
A Bit About My Life (so far...)
I was born in Mthatha in the Transkei region of South Africa's Eastern Cape province. There my Scottish father was Dean of the Cathedral, and a science teacher at St John’s College. My mother was born in Alice and grew up on a farm in the Bedford district, both also in the Eastern Cape. When I was three years old, my father's asthma forced us to move inland from the Wild Coast in search of a drier climate. So the Transkei’s misty hills and the Karoo’s semi-desert are both landscapes I love.
In Graaff-Reinet, my parents bought a rambling old house that no one else seemed to want, but which was perfect for them, their four daughters – with a fifth soon to follow – and a plethora of books. I grew up there, my father and mother both died there, one of my sisters still lives there, and we have more books than ever.
I studied English Literature at Stellenbosch in the Cape’s wine country, before following my father's roots and heading to Scotland for postgraduate study in Edinburgh in 1993. In those days I thought I’d become an academic but sitting exams on Derrida on the day of South Africa’s momentous 1994 elections (having voted in Glasgow in the morning) made me realise I wanted to do something more creative, more 'grass roots'.
I studied further in Applied Linguistics, writing a thesis on adult literacy programmes in the new South Africa, intending to go back and work in the field. But my husband’s Masters and PhD study meant a move to London instead, and then on to Cambridge. I tumbled into publishing, and found myself perfectly at home, thrilled to be working with writers; among them several South African authors I had long admired. I learned a great deal and had so much fun working with Carole Blake for more than twenty years, till her sudden death in October 2016. I miss her every day, but feel proud and privileged to be able to continue her legacy as Director and Head of Books at Blake Friedmann.
Since the leap into publishing I’ve lived happily in two worlds, returning home to South Africa several times a year and commuting from Cambridge to London. The work I do is varied, absorbing and inspiring; there’s a bit of headspace to work on poems on the train (in-between reading and editing manuscripts…) and London, well, who can tire of London? I love the city, its history and multiculturalism, and all the artistic energies and opportunities it offers. It’s here that I went to Michael Donaghy’s City University course for a couple of years, and met other poets with whom I have read, workshopped and published over the last decade.
All in all, I feel very fortunate.