Poetry Book Society Special Commendation
Lawrence Sail’s poems balance dream and history, delight and unease: they weigh the art of the possible against the encroachment of time. This substantial retrospective 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. He has since published two later collections, The Quick (2015) and Guises (2020).
The new poems continue to explore Sail's characteristic themes – the border country between belief and doubt; the interplay of memory and imagination; the possibilities of art; the context of silence: and they do so with a fresh inwardness. Attentive to the often alluring details of the material and natural world, many of them reflecting the writer’s love of the sea, the poems also contemplate the relationship between appearance and essence. The closing poem, ‘Ghostings’, offsets a keen awareness of the world as it is against the parameters of a child’s perceptions and a quest for a vision of wholeness.
'Beneath the elegance and refinement of Lawrence Sail’s artistry is the ever-present undertow – the current below the aesthetic surface, moving in a contrary direction to that of the surface current, and it is this that gives the poems their authority and depth of vision’ – Catherine Beeston, Critical Survey
'There is a shimmering quality to Sail's sensibility which moves easily between sharply focused observations of the particulars of object and place, the play of light on the locally loved and known, and a constant alertness to larger climates and movements…close and subtle looking and a rich, playful use of language are the tools by which discoveries are made' – Peter Scupham, PN Review
'Witty, memorable and rich in feeling. The emotional truth of these poems is lit up by a rare buoyancy of vision, and line after line strikes with fresh, original force' – Helen Dunmore on The World Returning
'He is so reliably good…his ear for sonic and rhythmic effects, his understanding of what to reveal, what to leave unstated, his ability to balance tone with subject, his awareness of a poem’s architecture. He is, in a word, an exemplary poet' – John Lucas, Critical Survey.
‘The language is always superbly economical, his paring down, careful and considered chiselling, gives the reader as much as the poet passage…Sail’s poetry is one that is constantly alert to discoveries, and we should be grateful for his quiet probing and craft' – Joe Woods, Magma.
‘You should read Lawrence Sail. He doesn’t write like anyone else… He misses nothing, and he offers no easy answers, but his gaze is invariably compassionate… We need such poetry in these tricky times’ – R.V. Bailey, Envoi.