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Sam Willetts was born in 1962 and has spent most of his life in Oxford, where he read English at Wadham College, and in London. He has worked as a teacher, journalist and travel writer.
Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2010. Costa Book Awards 2010 Judges' comment: "A remarkable first collection by any standard - very moving, utterly gripping and not a false note." Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry 2010. The Poetry Book Society view... Shortlisted for the Forward prize for Best First Collection as well as the 2010 T S Eliot Prize, New Light for the Old Dark is an unusually late debut, presumably because Sam Willetts (born in 1962) lost 10 years to heroin. Even more unusually, addiction is not the sole subject of his book, but rather one of several elements – along with the Second World War, his Jewishness and his mother's wartime escape from Poland – that form a loose-leafed autobiography. The thumbnail sketches of dead junkies and people on the point of departure, visits to cemeteries and snapshots of a cleansed ghetto and Nagasaki the instant before the bomb, make for a haunted atmosphere. For all that, New Light for the Old Dark is not lugubrious, and Willetts' conservative treatment of charged material not only avoids sensationalism but also delivers quietly affecting moments.