Lawrence Sail was born in London and brought up in Exeter. He studied French and German at Oxford University, then taught for some years in Kenya, before returning to teach in the UK. He is now a freelance writer and lives in Exeter.
His retrospective Waking Dreams: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, covers work written over four decades, drawing on poems from ten collections, from Opposite Views (1974) to the New Poems (2010) first collected in this volume. It includes poems from four books previously published by Bloodaxe, Out of Land: New & Selected Poems (1992), Building into Air (1995), The World Returning (2002), and Eye-Baby (2006). He has since produced two later collections, The Quick (2015) and Guises (2020).
His other books include Cross-currents: essays (Enitharmon, 2005), a memoir of childhood, Sift (Impress Books, 2010), and Songs of the Darkness, a selection of his Christmas poems with illustrations by his daughter, Erica Sail (Enitharmon, 2010). He has edited a number of anthologies, including The New Exeter Book of Riddles (1999) and Light Unlocked: Christmas Card Poems (2005), both co-edited with Kevin Crossley-Holland for Enitharmon, and First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (Faber & Faber, 1988). He also edited South-West Review from 1980 to 1985.
He was chairman of the Arvon Foundation from 1990 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 a judge of the Eric Gregory Awards. 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.
Books by Lawrence Sail