Click to buy Print Edition Home Page African Writing Online Home Page  
HomeAbout UsNewsinterviewsMemoirsFictionPoetryThe Call to ActionArtReviews

  Adaobi Nwaubani
  Amatoritsero Ede
  Ando Yeva
  Ayesha H. Attah
  Bobby Gawthrop
  Brian Chikwava
  Chuma Nwokolo
  Crispin Oduobuk
  Fela Kuti
  Fiona Jamieson

  Florence Nenakwe
  Funsho Ogundipe
  Genna Gardini
  George E. Clarke
  Grace Kim
  Isabella Morris
  Isobel Dixon
  Ivor W. Hartmann
  Jane Bryce
  Kobus Moolman
  Meshack Owino
  Mwila A. Zaza
  Patrice Nganang
  Petina Gappah
  Rudolf Okonkwo
  Samed Aydin
  Tanure Ojaide
  Tola Ositelu
  Uche Peter Umez
  Unoma Azuah
  Uzor M. Uzoatu
  Wole Soyinka

Submission Guidelines

African Writing Archives


Isobel Dixon


Isobel Dixon

Dixon grew up in South Africa, where her prize-winning debut Weather Eye was published. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Guardian, The Manhattan Review and Southwest Review, among others. Her work is included in several anthologies, including The Forward Book of Poetry 2009. Her new collection A Fold in the Map is published by Salt.


Photographs by Vanessa Bilbe


 Three Poems


Agama Atra

On our walk, a watching zebra,
curiously close to the path, alone,
and a bloukop koggelmander:
though then, and later back in town,
no-one could remember
if they’d ever known the English name –
not that false friend, salamander,
a mistranslation for this lizard
with his crusty ferrous trunk
like lichened rock,
his woaded head like shadowed stone.
We admired his divided disguise,
expertly angled in the shade; the way
he refused to budge,  grappled to the spot,
as if to persuade us of his non-existence
by his very stillness, and the way part
of his true identity evaded us.
As if in his single blink he scoffed:
stick to your unsubtle mammal-kind,
like that hot-breathed neigher,
stripy apple-buttocked horse,
some simple creature you can easily name.                            
I am halfway home, stopped in my tracks.
Fat yellow frog holds down the pavement’s cracks,
splayed feet to keep the underworld well-plugged.
Head spelling out the shape of snake,
dark scorchings spoor his mottled back,
track many fearsome journeyings.
He tenses as I stop and look – 
but stubborn, holds his own.
Frog summons up the roving network
of the night: moth flurries pell-mell,
tangles with my eyelashes; lone cat stalks,
cuts a slant across the darkening swathe of tar.
And in my kitchen as I rinse the dishes off
the plughole seethes – lava
bubbling from the earth’s hot core.
Root Verses
Something fantastical is happening
to our weekly vegetables.
A deep organic mystery.
Take this peculiar Buddha root,
these conjoined tubers,
apostolic, luminous.
At first it was our ignorance
that had us both agape
at sprouting aliens, but Google,
Wikipedia, my fat Larousse,
enlightened us. See, here,
celeriac, kumquat, jackfruit;
chard, tamarillo, salsify –
we learned to welcome strangers
to our house. The whole green world
was subject to my knife,
till more burgeoned from the box
than I could chop.
This wasn’t what we signed up for:
our direct debit, like the widow’s jar
of oil, a source of never-ending
anti-oxidants.  I waited,
but could never catch the van.
Piled offerings at our door –
neighbours complained – we took them in.
I’ve called the helpline
and the chap from – Delhi?
Mumbai? – answers me,
then puts me through to silence,
growing quiet down the phone.
I sit among the congregated squash,
the jungled cress, the mute
appeal of finger-shaped shallots.
Wish that the zinging in my ears would shush,
ponder the way of xylem and of phloem,
pray for the peace of photosynthesis.

Copyright © African Writing Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to