About The Tempest Prognosticator:

'A virtuoso collection' - J M Coetzee

In The Tempest Prognosticator leeches warn of storms, whales blunder up the Thames, beetles tap out 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 to make the familiar rich and strange. From Cape Town to Nagasaki, the Congo to the Karoo, creatures real and surreal flit, peck and spin fantastic webs across the page. Here real-life explorers Robert Byron and Mary Kingsley have encounters dangerous and humorous, we venture inside Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho house, and find Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on the moon. Desire and loss are refracted through the writings of Eugene Marais and Shakespeare, through the art of Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois, through Pink Floyd's music and Fred Astaire's footwork, as a poet's vision of a world of art and nature emerges – stormy, celebratory, and revelatory.

The Tempest Prognosticator was shortlisted for the SALA Award in South Africa in 2012.


Praise for The Tempest Prognosticator:

‘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; while moths 'crash the party,' 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

‘The exquisitely written poems in Isobel Dixon's new collection teach us how to read the world anew. Richly and vividly observant, they also treasure the things that are "most beautiful with your eyes closed" (Vision). Indeed, writing and its small comforts can keep us from plunging blindly into "our joint and secret griefs" (So Many Henries), "a hyphen/of a wall to keep us from the irresistible" (Every Valley Shall Be Exalted).  And yet in these lines, falling is itself a kind of "euphoric vertigo" that can "open up the world and its great mystery" (Days of Miracle and Wonder) to us, as this collection does.’ – Gabeba Baderoon

‘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

The Tempest Prognosticator
UK & US Reviews
(Salt, July 2011)

‘Isobel Dixon’s salty and compelling second collection The Tempest Prognosticator. … Dixon’s is a richly peopled world, and her poems on love are particularly good. …  “They use the snaffle and the curb all right,” Roy Campbell wrote in his amusing squib ‘On Some South African Novelists’, “But where’s the bloody horse?” Dixon is a conscientious, exacting and measured writer, but make no mistake: the horse is alive and well here, and galloping through the pages of The Tempest Prognosticator. Isobel Dixon’s is an imagination on the run.’ – David Wheatley, Poetry London

‘History, foreign travel, politics, African wildlife and landscapes—the poems speak of an eclectic mix of "the things we've known / and sometimes rightly named" and also look with humor, and slant attention, at the familiar …[An] erotically lilting selection of words …  deceptively playful rhyme and the spoken rhythms of Latin dance…’ – Moira Richards, Off the Coast

‘A splendidly surreal sense of humour …Isobel Dixon’s work possesses great range and inventiveness, dipping into several distinct and different worlds. … Isobel Dixon is an extraordinary talent. … The entirety of this planet – from its animal life to politics, past to present – is found in close-up in her verse.’ – Donald S. Murray, Magma blog

‘By turns delicate, descriptive, probing and tongue-in-cheek, Isobel Dixon's The Tempest Prognosticator brings familiarity to the alien and freshness to the known. …Particularly magical is 'You, Me and the Orangutan', an imagined fling with a handsome ape.’ – Kirsty Irving, Dr Fulminare

‘The animal poems that make up a sizeable portion of The Tempest Prognosticator are weird, sweet, memorable and unsettling, spiced with the exotic and erotic. If pop music comparisons aren't too gauche, 'You, Me and the Orang-utan' reminds me of Kate Bush sensuously seducing her snowman or computer … South African-born Dixon can write about gazelles and crocodiles without sounding like a tourist, and though she often grounds herself in more homely imagery, the best poems are the strangest – and sometimes the most pained, as in 'Contract', which bemoans women's lot.’ – Jon Stone, Dr Fulminare

‘Dixon’s poetic voice is refined and disciplined, her titles scalpel sharp, and her forms and rhythms musical. The poems of The Tempest Prognosticator concern themselves mainly with the natural world, but maintain an unsentimental distance in spite of a stern embedded warning about our cavalier attitude towards it. Her poetry is marbled with gentle humour that pokes fun at the funniest animal on earth without rendering humans irretrievably ridiculous, and is layered with religious, historical, pop culture and intertextual references. Unafraid of either free verse or end rhymes – or any of the strictures of craft meticulously applied – Dixon manages a casual brilliance that appears effortless. This is the best English collection by a South African I have read this year.’ – Karin Schimke, Cape Times

‘With irony and attention to wordplay, Dixon delivers unforgettable poetry. … Her quirky gaze on her subjects, her technical skill and her impressive descriptive powers make The Tempest Prognosticator an exceptional collection and an excellent gift for that besieged species, the lover of poetry.’ – Johann de Lange, Die Burger

The Tempest Prognosticator – Read and Revisit’: Dixon’s clarity of vision … each poem contains a questing intelligence.’ – Dee Andrew, The Citizen