Romania Rocks: Fiona Sampson meets Ana Blandiana

The renowned British poet, academic and author meets Romania’s world-renowned poet. With translator Viorica Patea. Hosted by Gabriela Mocan.

Friday, 23 October 2020, 6:30pm
online | RCI London’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.


Ana Blandiana is a poet, essayist, and prose writer, civil rights activist, and a legendary figure in Romanian culture.

She has authored eighteen books of poetry, two books of short stories, seven books of essays, and one novel that have been translated into 26 languages and grouped into 80 books of poetry and prose, to date. Blandiana was the co-founder and president of the Civic Alliance from 1990, an independent non-political organisation that fought for freedom and democratic change in post-revolutionary Romania. She also re-founded and became the president of the Romanian PEN Club in 1990. Under the aegis of the European Community, she created the Memorial to the Victims of Communism (1993), distinguished with the European Heritage Label.

Her numerous international literary prizes include the Herder Prize, the European Poet of Freedom Prize, the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, the ‘Golden Wreath’ of Struga Poetry Evenings, and the Acerbi Special Prize. In recognition of her contribution to European culture and her valiant fight for human rights, Blandiana was awarded the highest distinction of the French Republic, the Légion d’Honneur (2009), while the State Department of the United States distinguished her with the Romanian Women of Courage Award (2014).

In Britain, some of her earlier poems were published in The Hour of Sand: Selected Poems 1969-1989 (Anvil Press Poetry, 1989), with a later selection by Seamus Heaney in John Fairleigh’s contemporary Romanian anthology When the Tunnels Meet (Bloodaxe Books, 1996). Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea have translated all her poetry into English. Their first translation to appear from Bloodaxe was of My Native Land A4 (2010) in 2014. This was followed by The Sun of Hereafter / Ebb of the Senses in 2017, combining her two previous collections, and a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.

Further compilations are forthcoming: Five Books in 2021 followed by The Shadow of Words.

Listen to actress Anamaria Marinca read a poem by Ana Blandiana.


Fiona Sampson is an internationally renowned poet, academic and author, published in 37 languages. She recently received two major European prizes: the Naim Frasheri Laureateship 2019 and the European Lyric Atlas Prize 2020. She has also received the Zlaten Prsten (Macedonia), the Charles Angoff Award (US), the 2016 Slovo Podgrmec Prize and the 2015 Povelji za međunarodnu saradnju Award (Bosnia) and the Aark Arts International Poetry Prize (India), and been shortlisted for the Evelyn Encelot Prize for European Women Poets. She received an MBE for services to literature in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, 2017.

​Sampson is a Fellow and former Council Member of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the English Association, the Higher Education Association and the Wordsworth Trust, and the Patron of the Anglo-Russian Cultural Institute and of Living Words. Her publications include twenty-nine volumes of poetry, literary non-fiction and criticism; she has also co-translated four volumes of poetry and developed a specialism in contemporary poetry in translation. She has received the Newdigate Prize, the Cholmondeley Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship, Kathleen Blundell and Oppenheimer-John Downes Awards from the Society of Authors, a number of Writer’s Awards from both the English and the Welsh Arts Councils, and various Poetry Book Society commendations, and has been shortlisted twice for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prizes.

​A prolific broadcaster and critic, Fiona Sampson has held a number of international writing fellowships and serves regularly on international juries. Earlier, she pioneered writing in health care in the UK and directed an international poetry festival in Wales for five years before becoming Director of the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust for literary translation. Her study of musical form in poetry, Lyric Cousins (Edinburgh University Press), and her latest collection The Catch (Penguin Random House), both appeared in 2016. She recently completed work on an AHRC-funded research project looking at poet to poet trio translation and wrote a libretto for the composer Philip Grange as part of the AHRC-funded OWRI initiative.

​Among Sampson’s recent books, the Spectator called her exploration of Limestone Country (Little Toller, 2017) ‘bewitching’, and it was a Guardian Book of the Year and a Telegraph and Evening Standard Pick of the Summer. Her critically acclaimed biography, In Search of Mary Shelley (Profile Books, 2018), has appeared in US, Italian and Spanish editions.

Her eighth poetry collection, Come Down, was published in February 2020 (Little Brown) and her biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is forthcoming in 2021. A former editor of Poetry Review, she holds the Chair of Poetry at the University of Roehampton.

The event is part of Romania Rocks: Romanian-British Literature Festival.

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