About Weather Eye:
Weather Eye began as a manuscript that won the unpublished section of the Sanlam Prize in South Africa in 2000. Gus Ferguson of Carapace published the collection in 2001 and it won the Olive Schreiner Prize, administered by the English Academy of South Africa, in 2004. Olive Schreiner, author of The Story of An African Farm, is one of my literary heroines, so this was a particular thrill. She also loved the landscape of the Karoo – she lived for some time in Cradock and is buried on a hilltop in the area, close to where I grew up, in Graaff-Reinet.
The wonderful South African artist and designer Lynne Stuart made Weather Eye into a very beautiful book (with lovely internal illustrations as well), and also designed two striking pamphlets for a group of poets I regularly workshop with: Unfold and Ask for It by Name.
Praise for Weather Eye:
‘A collection of twenty-nine invariably short but luminous poems, which highlight her principal strengths as a poet: the close register of physical detail and her celebration of the middle ground of existence. She picks her deus loci out of the ordinary events of love … her mythologies are disarmingly authentic and never more so than in the opening, titular poem. …. If Heaney gave us in his youth the soil reek of Ireland, Dixon has us smell the dust of Umtata. Of course we know that singing the local cheese has been done until its wires have long since ceased mouldering, but Dixon extracts here and there some serious vintage, most notably in ‘Plenty, which attempts to crowd into the prism ring her much missed and “scattered sisters” and the world in which their “… old enamel tub, age-stained and pocked/ upon its griffin claws, was never full.” … This is not to say that Dixon is trapped in a facile childhood, or indeed a physical locale. Other poems confront the modern realities of living in South Africa with bravura openness and not a little bravery.’ - Tim Liardet, Leviathan Quarterly
‘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. Her mellow cadences and sound patterns, glowing imagery and gift for metaphor are clearly governed by a deep love of family and homeland that poignantly bridges the past and the present, one world and another; so that however rooted in the physical, the volume’s distinction is ultimately and joyously in its illumination of the weathers of the heart.’
- Stewart Conn
'A contemporary, accessible lyricism. … Weather Eye is 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
‘A surprisingly diverse selection of work. … Dixon’s most powerful tool, her dexterity at utilising metaphor. .. A significant voice within the milieu of South African poetry. She shows herself to be just as capable of unfolding the intricacies and inherent beauty of the South Africa of her childhood as she is of fearlessly confronting the brooding dread that inhabits the darkest corners of that very same landscape.’ - Greg Cahl, New Contrast
‘Unfortunately, I didn’t hear her read her verse, but I’m sure her tone would have been gentle and melodic. This is the poetry of someone who portrays herself as an unwilling exile, “hybrid, grafted, spliced” struggling to recapture through the “secret-nurtured things” her “heartland’s mother tongue”. The poignancy of her poetry derives from her awareness that there may be no such language. … Isobel Dixon has a keen eye for the sights and sounds of nature. Yet it is not so much the rapture of nature that is celebrated in her verse, but a personal sense of ‘rupture’ and disconnection which her close observation of the natural world constantly reinforces. But Dixon is never cynical, is always hopeful of a miracle. … There are gems to be found in this first collection. ‘Crossing’, ‘Kiewietjie’, ‘valentine’, ‘Pace’, ‘Air on Paper’ and ‘She Comes Swimming’ are poems, which, to use the language of Ted Hughes, have a vivid life of their own outside the author: they are poems to which nothing can be added or taken away “without maiming or perhaps even killing them.”’ - Marion Baxter, New Coin
‘A finely crafted and precise work. ... Quite honestly, there are few South Africans (except for the late Wopko Jensma) who can evoke as fiercely the human heart of pity as Dixon does in the lines that conclude the poem [‘Comfort Zone’] … Dixon is strongest in this volume when she is writing about people and places that she has actually known. In this sense, her writing is profoundly personal. But personal is never to be equated with private. Even when she writes about the tangle and torment of human love, as in ‘Consummation’ and (my favourite) ‘Valentine’, she is nevertheless able to transcend the narrowly confessional and, through language that is startling and sharp, provoke a deep sense of identification in the reader. […] Weather Eye is indeed a worthy winner of the coveted Sanlam Award. Being able to write about living on this African soil and also being able to look upon it from across the ocean, Dixon reveals to us, in that famous phrase of Jeremy Cronin’s, “how to speak with the voices of the land”.’ - Kobus Moolman, Litnet
‘There is much to admire about her first collection, Weather Eye. Not only her obvious skill and the ease with which each piece unfolds, but also how well she controls the themes that link each of them. … There is a pleasant cadence, a freshness to Dixon’s work. … a wistful – but never cloying – exploration of the bond Dixon feels for the country of her birth.’ - Michael Vines, donga
‘Dixon’s recuperation of the past is not simply governed by a tendency to idealize. She is aware of shortcomings, of pain and restrictions. …Africa is not all memory for Dixon. On occasion it is a place for present experience, compelling, absorbing …Dixon’s hopeful intensity is closer to that found in Serote’s Come and hope with me (1994). She has tested her vision and feelings for the South in various ways in the remainder of her book, and has earned this right to hope.’ - Nick Meihuizen, ‘A Troubled Sense of Belonging: Private and Public Histories in the Poetry of Isobel Dixon, John Eppel and Don Maclennan’, Scrutiny 2