Jo Dixon

Jo Dixon’s PhD was a creative-critical exploration of epiphany in contemporary poetry. Through her creative practice and a critical thesis on epiphany in the work of Kathleen Jamie, Alice Oswald and Liz Berry she explored how epiphany is translated into poetic utterance. In her own practice, she considers the unknowability of the creative process – how she might consider writing a poem as a problem to be solved, and ways in which following the course of that solution might lead to unexpected outcomes.

There and Back

Skegness Wake [extract]

It was with some trepidation that I went to Skegness to see the beached whales. I could have been sitting at my desk writing or reading but instead I was veering to another world where I would be ‘negotiating with the dead’ (Atwood 2011). A pathologist, waist deep in the North Sea, was washing the whale’s blood from his face, ‘speak[ing] death and life into [my] mouth’ (Rilke 1922). This provided me with what Charlotte Doyle refers to as the ‘seed incident’. Explaining the importance of such moments she argues that ‘psychologists have suggested that the creative process is a kind of problem solving […]. For the authors in this study, a seed incident […] provided the problem to be explored’ (Doyle 1998, p.36). I too had a problem to solve. How would this image become a poem? And what might the image and poem be saying?

Skegness Wake

Graffiti on the carcass vents: MANS FAULT
but the woman next to me isn’t so sure.

A burgundy membrane drapes from its insides
and a chainsaw settles in the sand

where we toy with the flapping cordon, study
the squid scars on a box-shaped head,

an amputated jawbone and conical teeth.
She quizzes the pathologist

resting his back against a 4×4

He can’t answer yet and walks into the sea,
green chest waders up to his armpits,

rinses salt water over the blood-spatter
on his face while a Jack Russell, sniffs

at fluids pooling underneath the flukes.
An oily odour is binding to the fibres of the gloves

I’ll post later in the bin by Terry’s Fish ‘N’ Chips.
They say there’s two more at Gibraltar Point

so I join the column drawn there and back,
calves burning in the back-slide of the shingle.


Margaret Atwood, Negotiating With The Dead [2002] (London: Virago, 2011)
Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Sonnet XIII: Alles dieses spricht/Tod und Leben in den Mund’ [1922]
Charlotte Doyle, The Writer Tells: The Creative Process in the Writing of Literary Fiction, Creativity Research Journal, 11.1 (1998), pp.29-37