Fiona Sampson

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Fiona Sampson
Fiona Sampson
Fiona Sampson
OccupationPoet and writer
Alma materRoyal Academy of Music; University of Oxford, University of Nijmegen

Fiona Ruth Sampson, MBE FRSL[1] is a British poet and writer. She is published in thirty-seven languages and has received a number of national and international awards for her writing.


Sampson was educated at the Royal Academy of Music, and following a brief career as a concert violinist, studied at Oxford University, where she won the Newdigate Prize.[2] She gained a PhD in the philosophy of language from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. She now lives in Somerset.


Sign marking Fiona Sampson as poet in residence, Addenbrooke's Hospital

As a young poet she was the founder-director of Poetryfest, the Aberystwyth International Poetry Festival, and the founding editor of Orient Express, a journal of contemporary writing from Europe. She was one of the pioneers of writing in healthcare in the UK, and her early publications are about this work.

Sampson has published twenty-nine books, including poetry, studies of the writing process, writing about place, and literary biography. She's also a broadcaster and critic - she contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Independent, The Tablet, the Times Literary Supplement and the Sunday Times.[3] She has a special interest in the Romantics, editing the Faber Poet to Poet edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and writing a psychological biography In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein.[4] Starlight Wood: Walking Back to the Romantic Countryside is published by Corsair September 1, 2022.

Sampson's work has appeared in thirty-eight languages and received a number of international awards, including the Zlaten Prsten, the Naim Frasheri Laureateship and the European Lyric Atlas Prize. Her own translations include the work of Jaan Kaplinski and Amir Or. She writes on and teaches literary translation. In the UK, Sampson has received the Newdigate Prize, a Hawthornden Fellowship, a Cholmondeley Award, the Wales Poetry Book of the Year and awards from the Arts Councils of England and of Wales, Society of Authors, Poetry Book Society and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as well as various national Book of the Year selections, and twice been a finalist for both the T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes for poetry. She has also been a finalist for three major biography prizes, the UK Biographers’ Club's Best First Biography Prize, the Plutarch Prize and the PEN Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography 2022. She received an MBE for services to literature in 2017 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, where she's served on the Council, and of the English Association and the Wordsworth Trust. She is a Trustee of the Royal Literary Fund.

Sampson's fifth full poetry collection was Rough Music (Carcanet, 2010). It followed A Century of Poetry Review (Carcanet, 2009), a PBS Special Commendation,Poetry Writing: The expert guide (Robert Hale, 2009), and Common Prayer (Carcanet, 2007). Some of Sampson's earlier work is held online, in text and audio, at The Poetry Archive.[5] Her volume of Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures, Music Lessons, was published in 2011, and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Faber and Faber Poet to Poet series, appeared in the same year (it was the PBS on-line Book Club Choice), reissued in 2012. Beyond the Lyric: a map of contemporary British poetry (Penguin Random House, 2012) is the first study of the poetry mainstream to identify the range of contemporary British poetics without being partisan, and to recognise the contribution of women and Bame writers across that range. Coleshill (Penguin Random House, 2013), a PBS Recommendation, is a portrait of place and feeling. Her seventh collection was The Catch (Penguin Random House, 2016) and her eighth, Come Down, Corsair was a Financial Times pick for 2020, Wales Book of the Year (Poetry) and received the European Lyric Atlas Prize and the Naim Frasheri Laureateship.

In 2016 she published a study of such musical forms and poetry, Lyric Cousins: Musical Form in Poetry (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). In 2017 she published a prose exploration of Limestone Country Little Toller, which was a Guardian nature writing book of the year. Sampson's literary biographies have received international critical acclaim. In Search of Mary Shelley: the girl who wrote Frankenstein (2018) was a finalist for the Biographers' Club Slightly Foxed prize, a Guardian, Daily Mail, Spectator and Idler Book of the Week, Evening Standard London nonfiction bestseller #4, Sunday Times Must Read, Observer, Independent and Financial Times Pick for 2018, Times and Financial Times Best Summer Read, a The Times, Sunday Times and Mail Paperback choice, The Times Literary Non-fiction Book of the Year. Two-Way Mirror: The life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (2021) was a finalist for the PEN Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography and for the Biographers International Organisation Plutarch Prize, a Washington Post Book of the Year, New York Times Review of Books Editors’ choice, Prospect Book of the Year, New Statesman Recommendation, The Tablet Recommendation, Mail Book of the Week, and The Times best paperback of 2022.

In 2020 Omar Sabbagh's Reading Fiona Sampson Anthem Press, an academic monograph on her work, appeared.

From 2005 to 2012, Sampson was the editor of Poetry Review, the oldest and most widely read poetry journal in the UK. She was the first woman editor of the journal since Muriel Spark (1947–49).[6] In January 2013 she founded Poem, a quarterly international review, published by the University of Roehampton, where Sampson was Professor of Poetry and the Director of Roehampton Poetry Centre 2013–2021. She is currently Emeritus Professor, University of Roehampton. She has been a judge for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Irish Times IMPAC Awards (now International Dublin Literary Award), the 2011 Forward Poetry Prizes, the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize, the 2015 T.S. Eliot Prize, and the 2016 Ondaatje Prize. She chaired the 2015 and 2017 Roehampton Prize and the 2015 and 2016 European Lyric Atlas Prize (in Bosnia). From 2013 to 2016 she was a judge for the Society of Authors' Cholmondeley Awards.[citation needed] Sampson is a former musician who works frequently with composers, including commissions with Sally Beamish, Stephen Goss and Philip Grange. Her work has been set by composers in Canada, France, Romania and the UK.

Selected bibliography[edit]

BOOKS (excluding chapbooks):

  • Starlight Wood: Walking back to the Romantic countryside, Corsair: September 2022
  • Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, W.W. Norton; Profile Books: 2021
  • Come Down, Corsair: 2020
    • Macedonian edition, Perun Artis, Skopje: 2022
    • Romanian edition, Tracus Arte, Bucharest: 2019
  • Selected Poems as Podrhatavije (European Lyric Atlas Laureate 2020), Povelaj/National Library of Serbia, Kraljevo: 2020
    • as Shpella e Dantes (Naim Frasheri Laureate 2019), Ditet e Naimit, Tetovo: 2020
  • Stone Moon, artists' book with Alison Grant: 2020
  • In search of Mary Shelley: the girl who wrote Frankenstein, Profile Books: 2018
    • Italian edition,DeA Planeta: 2018
    • Spanish edition, Galaxia: 2018
  • Limestone Country, Little Toller: May 2017
  • Lyric Cousins: Poetry & musical form, Edinburgh University Press: 2016
  • The Catch, Penguin Random House: 2016
    • Serbian edition, Archipelag, Belgrade: 2018
    • Russian edition, Liberated Verse, Kyiv: Jan 2017
    • Ukrainian edition, Ad Fontes, Kyiv: 2015
    • Romanian Edition, Tractus Arte, Bucharest: 2015
  • Revenant, in Chinese, Intellectual Property Publishing House: 2014
  • Coleshill##, Penguin Random House: 2013
    • Bulgarian edition, Small Stations, Sofia: 2019
    • Bosnian edition, Sveti Hieronymous, Banja Luka: 2016
  • Night Fugue: Selected Poems, Sheep Meadow Press (US): 2013
  • Beyond the Lyric: a map of contemporary British poetry, Penguin Random House 2012
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1st edition: The Romantics Series: Faber: 2011
    • 2nd edition: Poet to Poet: Faber: 2012
  • Music Lessons: The Newcastle Poetry Lectures, Bloodaxe: 2011
  • Selected Poems Jaan Kaplinski (co-translator), Bloodaxe: 2011
    • Poljupci I Molitva (selected poems), Bronko Miljokovic, Nis: 2010
    • Zweimal sieben Gedichte (selected poems), Wieser Verlag, Klagenfurt: 2009
    • Pjesme (selected poems), Croatian PEN, Zagreb: 2008
  • Rough Music, Carcanet: 2010
  • A Century of Poetry Review (edited and introduced), Carcanet: 2009
  • Poetry Writing, Robert Hale: 2009
    • Second impression 2011
  • Attitudes of Prayer/Attitudes de Prière (trans into French/Japanese/English) with printmaker Tadashi Mamada, Editions Transignum, Paris: 2008
  • Common Prayer, Carcanet: 2007
  • On Listening: Selected Essays, Salt: 2007
  • Day, Amir Or (translator), Dedalus, Dublin: 2006
  • Writing: Self and Reflexivity with Celia Hunt, Palgrave Macmillan: 2005
  • The Distance Between Us, Seren: 2005
    • Bulgarian edition, Balkani, Sofia: 2009
    • Hebrew edition, Keshev, Tel Aviv: 2007
    • Albanian edition, Poeteka, Tirana: 2006
    • Macedonian edition, Magor, Skopje: 2005
    • Romanian edition, Editura Parallela 45, Bucharest: 2005
  • Creative Writing in Health and Social Care (editor), Jessica Kingsley: 2004
  • A Fine Line: New Poetry from Central and Eastern Europe (editor with Jean Boase-Beier & Alexandra Buchler), Arc: 2004
  • Evening Brings Everything Back, Jaan Kaplinski (translator), Bloodaxe: 2004
  • Patuvachki Knevnik (Travel Diary), Knixevna Akademija, Skopje: 2004
  • Folding the Real, Seren: 2001
    • Romanian edition Editura Paralela 45, Bucharest: 2004
  • The Healing Word, The Poetry Society: 1999
  • The Self on the Page (editor with Celia Hunt), Jessica Kingsley: 1998
    • Hebrew edition, ACh Publishers, Tel Aviv: 2002


  • Fiona Sampson, The Poetry Archive: 2007
  • Rough Music, with composer Steven Goss: Boosey and Hawkes: 2010


  • Bee Sama' with Luminita Spinu: King's College London Festival: 2015
  • Three sonnets with Harrison Birtwistle: Nash Ensemble: Wigmore Hall: fc
  • Tree Carols with Sally Beamish: Coull Quartet: City of London Festival: 2014, Edition Peters: 2015
  • Rough Music with Steven Goss: Guildford International Festival: 2009, Boosey and Hawkes: 2010


  1. ^ "New Year's Honours list 2017" (PDF). Government Digital Service. 30 December 2016. p. 82. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  2. ^ "British Council Biog". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Aldeburgh Poetry Festival biog". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  4. ^ Cooke, Rachel (7 January 2018). "In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein review – a life after deaths". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Fiona Sampson's workshop". The Guardian. London. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  6. ^ "The Poetry Society (New editor for Poetry Review)". Retrieved 29 March 2018.

External links[edit]