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Twilight of the Iguana: interview with Isobel Dixon

Tell us about your workshop …?

Isobel: The natural world is a continuing obsession in my work. My last collection The Tempest Prognosticator is teeming with creatures from life and art – from the energetic toktokkie beetle to Damien Hirst’s pickled shark, from Henri Rousseau’s ‘Merry Jester’ apes in their lush jungle, to the poor confused whale that swam up the Thames. I’m currently working with the artist Doug Robertson on a project in which we both respond to D H Lawrence’s Birds, Beasts and Flowers, so snakes, bats, tortoises et al remain much on my mind.

I love nature writing of all kinds and it’s intriguing to see the animal world represented through the ages, from Aesop to Bishop. I look forward to exploring some of these on my ‘Twilight of the Iguana’ Summer School Workshop on Friday 25 July – the title is a reference to the opening line of Pablo Neruda’s ‘Some Beasts’ and we’ll be looking at Ted Hughes and Mark Doty and more, but most of all finding some time and space and inspiration for participants to tackle new work.

And I have the great good fortune to have the brilliant Doug Robertson as my guest. He’ll bringing along some of the Birds, Beasts & Flowers work – adders and basking sharks and some critters I haven’t yet seen! A great source of creative inspiration.

Isobel Dixon at Fontane delle Tartarughe in Rome

“In front of my favourite fountain in Rome, Fontana delle Tartarughe – note the lovely little turtles on top!”

Does travel broaden the mind?

Isobel: Ha, travel breaks the bank/back (I dream of being a lighter traveller)? Broadens the hips (if you love Rome and its culinary delights, for instance)? Actually, I’d love a little more of the mind-broadening that goes with sitting quietly at home at my desk. I travel a lot though, for work and pleasure, and it does get the mind buzzing. Lots of useful notes for later work. I have a poem sequence on the simmer called ‘Travel Snap Quartets’ – we’ll see where that goes.

Going anywhere nice on your holidays this year?

Isobel: I go back to South Africa three or four times a year at the moment, as my mother is now in her eighties and quite frail. A return to the Karoo where I grew up is always a tonic. My husband and I try to get away to new places in short breaks throughout the year, but stay in the UK for the summer when the garden is green and the sun shines (at least more than otherwise).

Right now I’m looking forward to my annual Edinburgh International Book Festival pilgrimage, where I have several author clients appearing. Also a foray to Dundee where my father lived as a young curate, and a first trip to Inverness for the Book Festival there. Will have to look/listen out for Edwin Morgan’s Nessie en route.

What’s on your holiday reading list?

Isobel: Lots and lots of manuscripts on my Kindle for my work as a literary agent. More reading of work by and about D H Lawrence for Birds, Beasts & Flowers. This weekend I wrote a Dream Song homage to John Berryman for a project celebrating the centenary of his birth later this year, and it’s sent me back, again, to the Dream  Songs. Though I never really leave them behind, am always dipping in to them, my Desert Island book.  I’m also enjoying Glyn Maxwell’s vigorous On Poetry right now.

Book your place on Isobel’s workshop, Twilight of the IguanaFriday 25th July 2014, 10:30am-4:30pm



A True Account of Talking to the Sun: a poetry summer school

21 July – 25 July 2014

A full programme is available here. To book, visit or ring 0207 582 1679

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Image credit: Claudio Ojeda Morales and Teresa Gonzalez Marin of Arrazola, Oaxaca / Wikimedia Commons