Sunday 6 September 2020

Review by Samantha Nicholson-Hickling of "Purl" by Jo Dixon

Jo Dixon’s Purl is a well crafted, satisfying set of poems which are observant and focus on the big themes in life. In these uncertain times, authority is just what is needed, with a bit of finesse to round it all off.

As her first full collection, Purl boasts three sections or chapters worth of poems, each with their own internal theme which intertwine with the meaning of the title.

Section one coats you in a sheen of familiarity, talking about Bisto, Sunday roasts, the clicking of dentures and coats hanging on pegs. It creates a feeling that you know the characters and settings in these poems, while also as a reader making you believe you are a voyeur on their lives.

A personal stand out of this section, for me, is ‘Leading Lady,’ a peek back into the Kodak timeline of life, with its vivid imagery of the hiss and flicker of the projector's beam, alongside the sadness of the recalled memories. The layout and typeface decisions were what initially drew me to this particular piece, and it serves the poem well to highlight those more personal moments.

Section two has a more whimsical feel, almost a sense of the ethereal. Nature appears to take centre stage, with the water, the trees, the pollen and Spring all appearing throughout. ‘Taking the Water’ this time grasped all of my attention, with a first line that had my mind immediately questioning, wanting answers on what was happening and why. It takes you on an exciting journey through Rag Beck.  The ‘Perfect Setting’ brings happier thoughts, with beautiful imagery, easy to picture and impossible to forget.

The last section promised to be more tumultuous, with the word purl meaning to capsize, to fall head over heels. I was not disappointed, with the first poem of the set ‘Grand Canyon’ having a sense of urgency and excitement. Dixon sustains this sense of excitement, as each poem tantalises the imagination and has you turning the page almost quicker than you can process what you’ve read - right until you hit an abrupt stop with ‘Stopper On The Poacher Line.’ This poem's interesting choices make it a perfect moment to catch your breath, re-adjust your thoughts and just take in the imagery: the watery in the ditches, the pheasants.

One poem which sticks out from this section, a jarring moment of pure emotion, is 'NICU I and II.' The images are still as clear as before, but are almost purer because of the sadness you feel. It is an emotional rollercoaster and the perfect way to round off Jo Dixon’s first full collection.

About the reviewer

Samantha Nicholson-Hickling is a former De Montfort University Creative Writing student. Since completing her degree in 2011, she has attended Cambridge University and now teaches in a primary school in Oldham. She is involved in the local writing scene in Oldham, supporting Create Oldham's Hack Writers group, a weekly meet up for professional and amateurs alike. 

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