A Whistling of Birds

Isobel Dixon


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Nine Arches Press
22 June 2023
ISBN: 9781913437725
124 pages

From the publisher

Elizabeth Bishop's hawkweed, John Berryman's hummingbirds, Ted Hughes's burnt fox - the birds, beasts and flowers of Isobel Dixon's new collection are at times kin to D.H. Lawrence, whose essay 'Whistling of Birds' lends this book its name, though each poem here is its own vivid testament to the natural world, and our often troubled and troubling place in it. Lyrical, vigorous, inventive, A Whistling of Birds is at times in conversation with Lawrence's iconic collection, Birds, Beasts and Flowers, but also ranges widely through the worlds of other writers and makers - from the Venerable Bede to Emily Dickinson, Georgia O'Keeffe to Glenn Gould, and a wealth of other connections closely examined and delicately drawn. An abundance of apricots in Santa Fe; bats, bees, tortoises, snakes, the generous body of a whale. Threaded throughout is the beautiful complexity and vulnerability of the planet, and the joy and difficulty of making art. Douglas Robertson's finely detailed images also speak of a close connection to the green world, ocean and sky, and a thoughtful dialogue between artist and poet. With its resonant elegies and notes of celebration, this is a collection that flexes, hums and brims with energy, yet surely draws you in to its quiet, reflective heart. "Isobel Dixon's writing is lit by a fierce sense of landscape. She is newly touched by the tiniest northern flowers, haunted still by powerful spirits of the south. Her work is visually exuberant; its sounds, delicious, especially when bound by rhyme. Dixon's lines flash with humour and tenderness. Her poems marry exactitude to emotion. In both, they are memorable." -Alison Brackenbury 'As Lawrence says, "The essential quality of poetry is that it makes a new effort of attention." Isobel Dixon's A Whistling of Birds does just that. Doing so, she gets, and shares with her readers, new slants on life on earth. I felt alerted again to things, fellow creatures, deeds, I hadn't paid due attention to, or had once and had become accustomed and needed to be shown afresh. This book gives shocks of pleasure and gratitude in equal measure.' - David Constantine