Biography - Lawrence Sail

LS Photo 1 2020

Lawrence Sail was born in London in 1942 and brought up in Exeter. He read French and German at St John’s College, Oxford, taught for four years in Kenya, then held various teaching posts in England (the last was at Exeter School) before becoming a freelance writer.  

He has published thirteen collections of poems, most recently The Quick (Bloodaxe Books, 2015) and Guises (Bloodaxe Books, 2020).   Waking Dreams: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2010) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.  He has compiled and edited a number of anthologies, including First and Always:  Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (Faber, 1988) and, with Kevin Crossley-Holland, The New Exeter Book of Riddles (Enitharmon, 1999) and Light Unlocked (Enitharmon, 2005).  Enitharmon also published Cross-currents, a book of his essays, in 2005, and a second book of essays came out from Shoestring Press in 2013.  A new prose book, Accidentals, is due from Impress Books in September 2020.

His poems have been broadcast on national radio and television and he has written a radio play as well as various short features for radio. He has presented Poetry Now (Radio 3) and Time for Verse (Radio 4). He has contributed reviews and essays to various newspapers and periodicals including The Guardian, Poetry Nation Review, Poetry Review and Stand.  A number of his poems, including a sequence on the theme of silence, have been set to music.

He was editor of South West Review from 1981 to 1985, and chairman of the Arvon Foundation from 1991 to 1994.  In 1991 he was programme director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, and a judge for the Whitbread Book of the Year awards.  He was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 1992, and an Arts Council Writer’s Bursary the following year.   In August 1993 he undertook a month-long tour of India for the British Council, for whom he has since worked as visiting writer and lecturer in various countries, including Bosnia, Colombia, Egypt, France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. From 1994 to 1996 he was the British representative on the jury of the European Literature Prize, and from 2004 to 2007 he was a judge for the Eric Gregory Awards and on the management committee of the Society of Authors.  In October 1999 he was a co-director of the 50th Anniversary Cheltenham Festival of Literature.  In 2004 he received a Cholmondeley Award.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.          

Opposite Views, Dent, 1974
The Drowned River, Mandeville Press, 1978
The Kingdom of Atlas, Secker & Warburg, 1980
Devotions, Secker & Warburg, 1987
Aquamarine, Gruffyground Press, 1988
Out of Land: New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 1992
Building into Air, Bloodaxe Books, 1995
The World Returning, Bloodaxe Books, 2002
Eye-Baby, Bloodaxe Books, 2006
Waking Dreams: New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 2010
Songs of the Darkness: Poems for Christmas, Enitharmon Press, 2010
The Quick, Bloodaxe Books, 2015
Guises, Bloodaxe Books, 2020

First and Always:  Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Faber, 1988
The New Exeter Book of Riddles 
(with Kevin Crossley-Holland), Enitharmon, 1999
Light Unlocked: Christmas Card Poems 
(with Kevin Crossley-Holland), Enitharmon, 2005
The Heart's Granary: Poetry and Prose from Fifty Years of Enitharmon Press, Enitharmon, 2017

Cross-Currents, Enitharmon, 2005
The Key to Clover and other essays, Shoestring Press, 2013

Sift: Memories of Childhood, Impress Books September 2010

Lawrence Sail reads his poems, The Poetry Archive, 2012

Accidentals, Impress Books, due September 2020

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