Some Poetics of Political Intent: discursive strategies in nineteenth and twenty-first century British verse
Percy Bysshe Shelley famously claimed that, ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,’ and one can read this simply as a reminder that culture-makers help create the social consensus from which government arises. Shelley, though, is making a larger claim: not only for the status of poetry, but for its ability to go beyond conventional thinking and so uncover new and profound truths. That neo-philosophical, quasi-metaphysical enquiry into ways of knowing far exceeds the scope of this lecture. But it offers an interesting model against which to read the political intent of some verse.
In her lecture, Fiona Sampson will look at two distinct poetics of political intention, exploration and exposition. She will do so by outlining the continuities between examples from British poetry of the first half of the nineteenth century (Shelley himself, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning) and from the twenty-first (Sean O’Brien, Pauline Stainer).
Fiona Sampson has published twenty-nine books, including poetry, studies of the writing process, writing about place, and literary biography. Her work has appeared in thirty-eight languages and received a number of international awards. Moreover, Sampson was one of the pioneers of writing in healthcare in the UK.
Currently, she is also a broadcaster and critic – contributing regularly to The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Independent, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Sunday Times. She has had 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.“ Her exploration of the rural legacy of Romantic thought is due to be published in 2023.
Twice, she has been a finalist for both the T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes. She received an MBE for services to literature in 2017 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
From 2005 to 2012, Sampson was the editor of Poetry Review, the oldest and most widely read poetry journal in the UK. In January 2013 she founded Poem, a quarterly international review, published by the University of Roehampton, where Sampson has been Professor of Poetry and the Director of Roehampton Poetry Centre 2013-2021. She is currently Emeritus Professor, University of Roehampton.