Fiona Sampsonwas born in London and trained as a violinist. Her early musical studies and professional career as a musician in Europe influenced her editing and writing. She studied at Oxford University and received a PhD in the philosophy of language from Nijmegen University in the Netherlands. Her poetry collections include Folding the Real (2001); The Distance Between Us (2005), a novel in verse; Common Prayer (2007); and Rough Music (2010).
Sampson’s poetry shows an attention to sound and the visual presence of poetry on the page. Ruth Padel described Sampson’s style in the Guardian: “The tone is controlled and lightly pitched; there is a lovely surface smoothness with the rough.” The attention to the aural qualities of poetry has also made its way into her essays: On Listening (2007) and Music Lessons: The Newcastle Poetry Lectures (2011).
Sampson’s academic studies led to a concentration on the connection of writing to health, and she is a founding member of Lapidus, the Association for Literary Arts in Personal Development. She has published scholarly works and works for general readers on the subject of writing and health care, among them The Healing Word (1999); The Self on the Page: Theory and Practice of Creative Writing in Personal Development (1998); Writing: Self and Reflexivity, with Celia Hunt (2006); and the edited guide Creative Writing in Health and Social Care (2004). She also published the writing manual Poetry Writing: The Expert Guide (2009).
Sampson’s translations and edited works have focused on poets from central and southeastern Europe. She coedited the anthology A Fine Line: New Poetry from Eastern & Central Europe (2004) and in 2002 founded the journal Orient Express, featuring European poets. She has translated work by Estonian poet Jaan Kaplinski: Evening Brings Everything Back (2004, with Jaan Kaplinski) and Israeli poet Amir Or: Day (2006, with Amir Or).
Common Prayer and Rough Music were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, and Rough Music was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize. Sampson has received the Newdigate Prize and the Cholmondeley Award and in 2011 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. From 2005 to 2012, she was editor of Britain’s Poetry Review.