Fiona Sampson






Two poems from Rough Music




Out of the Attic


Things we love go with us

like marginalia,                                                                

those detours

early illuminators made.                                           

They’re detours for us, too,

useless and nourishing as dreams,

or the way a milk of mist

stripes fields on early summer mornings

when the air’s pink.                                                


Someone’s asleep close by,                            

and a skin’s exhalations –                                        

that faint salt-scent                   

when you slip from a bed

and stand at the window,

gazing down the dawn lane –                                                      

suggest a happiness                                      

which rests in us                                                             

as if it had prior possession,                            


and no philosophy

were necessary to joy.                                  

The intimacy of father and son                                 

unravels, as a child grows to equal

the man who was his measure.                                 

The night-shapes that terrified us

in attic bedrooms,

angels and shades,

curl at our feet like pets.



The Hare


The bell, the fist, a hiccup in the blood

when the hawk comes to your glove

and folds there, dark as the hooded figure

who flaws your gaze like an eyelash

and darkens through that gaze.

He’s a time-signature                                                                 

of moves you’ve yet to make in love.                                            

But you’re already at the dark wood.                         


The hobby shakes his hood, trees their leaves,                               

row after row of trembling gold

dressed in shadow. You’re trembling, too,                             

as if you already knew

what your dream now chooses to reveal –                                     

the fugitive among the trees.











Fiona Sampson was first a concert violinist, and later studied at the Universities of Oxford and Nijmegen, where she received a PhD in the philosophy of language.  Her interests include writing in health care, and translation. Her seventeen books include Rough Music (shortlisted for the 2010 Forward and T.S. Eliot Prizes).  Published in thirty languages, her eleven books in translation include Patuvachki Dnevnik, awarded the Zlaten Prsten (Macedonia, 2004).  She has received the Newdigate Prize, the Charles Angoff Award of The Literary Review (US, 2007), a Cholmondeley Award, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, Writer’s Awards from the Arts Councils of England and Wales, and been elected a Fellow and Council Member of the Royal Society of Literature. She is the Editor of Poetry Review (founded 1909).

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