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So many things have come apart
in my hands or somehow gone astray
they could form a museum,
a mausoleum of errings and shortfalls.
Both human and humane, Oliver Dixon’s debut collection of poetry maps a city and its inhabitants – from starlings and plane trees to a Stockhausen-listening street cleaner. But Human Form is as much a reflection on an interior world on the cusp of change. This book is a search for form, modes of utterance, combining elegantly crafted lyrics with dense blocks of prose poetry and fractured texts. Dixon is a poet open to invention and re-invention: reflective yet lively, philosophical yet grounded, a brilliant observer of people, place and moments of uncertainty coalescing into meaning.
‘Archive of the fleeting, Human Form is a work of suspended animation whose captures rarely linger enough to seem artificially preserved.’
Lytton Smith, LA Review of Books
‘[Dixon] crouches to child’s eye level and makes sense from what the child can see … [he is] a poet of family life, drawing philosophical truths from the quotidian’
Judi Sutherland, Dr Fulminare
‘I very much admired this book – the gently disabused humanity, the beautifully modulated diction, the understanding of form, the urbanity and humanity and freshness of the finely shaped objects he makes out of his experience.’
Jonathan Galassi, Farrar Strauss & Giroux
‘Oliver Dixon’s poetry stubbornly resists easy solutions. It is a poetry hard worked at and finely finished. It feels sharp and fresh, all perceptions cleansed. It is also a poetry which is keen to appraise the world outside the writing self, a poetry – unlike so much written these days – not mired in subjectivity. This may be a first book, but it is a first book blessed with poise, confidence and maturity.’
‘Oliver Dixon appears so fluid in his writing, offering a super-abundance of diction and such heightened sculptural curacy in applying form to language (not to mention an Olsonian appreciation of how form can breathe so naturally). Behind all this is an extraordinary depth of hearing and dedication to craft which completes the vision: ‘I can hear / the distant onrush of a wind-rucked sail, the ship / of a dead king / being launched’. In addition to this, Human Form never shirks the big subjects, offering a cool, two-fingered salute to Lyotard’s assertion that we have cheapened the grand narratives of our times. It’s rare to encounter a poetry collection these days (a first collection or otherwise) so weighted with poems that convince us that the author needed to write them (among these I single out the elegy for the poet’s mother here, which astounds). This is a remarkably assured debut of poems, quietly meditative but at turns leporine in its power to transform our place in the everyday world.’
Cover design by Penned in the Margins / Henry Simmonds
Photography by Garth Bowden
Published 1 March 2013
quietly meditative but at turns leporine in its power
Oliver Dixon was born in Sussex and, excepting periods travelling in Europe and Asia, has lived most of his adult life in London. He is a specialist teacher for students with learning disabilities. His poems and reviews have appeared in PN Review, The London Magazine, The Wolf, Frogmore Papers, Long Poem Magazine, Blackbox Manifold, Gists & Piths and New Welsh Review. He blogs at Ictus (oliverdixon1.blogspot.com). Human Form is his first book.