The Sky Is Cracked by Sarah L Dixon

Reviewed by David Mitchell

There is something instantly captivating about The Sky is Cracked, Sarah L Dixon’s first pamphlet collection. Her poems offer a succession of short moments, each capturing a reflection of life, and Dixon’s succinct style is rewarding and engaging. She shares stories exploring themes of loss and recovery, with a number of Northern references that capture the essence of both industrial and coastal towns.

Amongst these short poems there are exceptional lines and observations, with humour mediating the melancholy. This makes this chapbook very readable; I didn’t put it down once. Dixon has honed her art as a performance poet and compere, and every poem rewards the reader. These poems have been honed in front of live audiences, making them accessible, tested out loud before being carefully arranged and packaged for the reader. She has attracted high praise from poetic powerhouses such as Tony Walsh, and deserves to be read.

Her work follows themes of broken relationships, love, longing, bereavement, mental health, music, nature, and reaching middle age. Northern landmarks and scenery play their part, as in the first line of ‘Yorkshire Illuminations’: ‘She sought a complete darkness, / She found it in Huddersfield’ which begins a poem otherwise filled with light. The urban landscape is utilised too, in ‘Bridge 38, lock 15E’, as the poet celebrates old industrial cities, demonstrating that there can be beauty in decay:

I hold my tongue
As we approach,
Bite my lip.

Don’t tell you
Of the opening up
That comes with the view
Across the fields to Titanic Mill.

The soft slope of hills.
The chimney with a tree growing out of it.

I let you take it in,
without a word,
as I did.

The sky is cracked takes the reader to a cliff top at sunset:

The Sunrise contains
A thousand shades.

These tears are not only for its beauty,
but for the colours
It hides.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that this pamphlet only celebrates landscapes. Modern technology, antiquated technology and music all feature frequently. ‘Burnt’ is a moving reflection on loss, and the soundtracks we share. In ‘A bit Like Falling in Love’, the poet lifts her inhibitions with ale, and ends the poem with what appears to be a shoegazing double entendre. She even includes a rare cultural reference to the Thames Valley music scene in the nineties, probably never alluded to before in poetry. The sky is cracked is a very readable collection of poems that starts and ends perfectly, and even now I am tempted to read it again.