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18 Oct 2013

Ana Sampson Interview

Author of 'Poems to Learn of by Heart' and 'Tyger Tyger'.

Ana Sampson has a BA and MA in English Literature and works in publishing. She compiled the third bestselling poetry book of 2009, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud: And Other Poems You Half-Remember From School, and the follow - up Tyger Tyger, Burning Bright: Much-Loved Poems You Half Remember in 2012. Her anthologies have combined sales of over 100,000 copies and she is an experienced broadcaster on television and radio.



What inspired you to start writing?
The first writing I did for publication was a few entries in The Book Lovers’ Companion: What To Read Next, a guide for readers and book clubs. It was a project I wanted to be involved in because like most readers I love sharing book recommendations- it’s a wonderful gift to give someone the experience of reading a book that they love. That gave me the confidence to think about other non-fiction projects, which was how the anthologies came about. I felt that people would enjoy knowing a little about the poets or poems, which was something most anthologies didn’t offer, and I concentrated on quirky and amusing facts in I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and Tyger Tyger. The aspects of the poets’ lives that surprised, bemused and tickled me were the ones that were included.

Is being an author all you expected it to be?
My day job is in publishing, so I suppose I had a good idea of what being an author is really like! There is always a huge thrill in seeing one of my books on the shelves in a bookshop or-even better - someone’s house.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published author someday?
Consult the Writers’ Market or Writers and Artists Yearbook to see which publishers and agents would accept projects of the kind you’re writing. Not all publishers consider all sorts of books, and you could spend a lot of rather disheartening time approaching companies whose list wouldn’t suit your writing.

What is your all time favourite poem?
That’s an almost impossible question, because it depends on my mood. I absolutely love Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill- it’s just a pure, beautiful pleasure to read- and I remember clearly the first time I read Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting. It was at school and it had such an impact on me, I had a copy up on my wall for years. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is another favourite because I feel like I discover something new in it every time I read it, and as a self-confessed mad cat lady I’ve always loved his Practical Cats poems.

What is the most important thing when writing?
I think you have to be genuinely passionately interested in what you’re writing about for your work to interest others. It’s also crucial to check, redraft, re-read and edit your work. You might know what you meant to say, but will your reader?

Are you reading a book at the moment? If so what is it about?
I’m reading The Golem and the Djinni, a new book by Helene Wecker. It imagines these two mythical creatures meeting in New York in 1899 where they are both trying to pass as human. The conceit works really well and it’s keeping me awake during night feeds as I have a three month old daughter! 


Out of your anthologies which has been the most enjoyable to write?
I think I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud was perhaps the most enjoyable as it was a new experience, and I did a huge amount of research into the lives of all the poets featured so I learned all sorts of fascinating stories that informed my reading of the poems. I also loved the latest, Poems to Learn by Heart, because it wasn’t focussed entirely on well-known poems as the other two anthologies are. I had the opportunity to uncover some fantastic poetry that was new to me and, I hoped, would also be new to readers. It was also great fun thinking about what occasions you might like to recall a poem on - there are few bitter poems about disappointed love, for example, or lovely rhythmic verses about train travel that have obvious applications!

Do you have any hobbies that don’t involve reading, writing?
I’ve been studying art history in my spare time and I love to visit galleries, especially the National Gallery in London which is my favourite place. I love the Sainsbury Wing where the earliest paintings are on display.

What are your plans/hopes for the future in your career?
I would love to write more non-fiction books, and I also really enjoy broadcasting when I’ve had the opportunity, though radio is much less nerve-wracking than television. Since I’m on maternity leave at the moment, my greatest hope is to keep my brain working despite the lack of sleep!

If you would like to win a copy of ‘Poems to Learn by Heart’ or 'Tyger Tyger' check out our free book giveaway on our Facebook page between the 31st October - 7th November 2013!

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Forward Poetry's ethos has always been to act as a bridge to publication rather than a barrier. This, along with our passion for poetry and creative writing, has seen a humble family business evolve into the biggest publisher of new poetry in the world. We understand that poetry is subjective, that everyone writes in a different style and that what one person can love, another can hate! Our collections showcase a variety of themes, writing styles and poets from all walks of life. They are carefully edited and compiled to celebrate and complement the craft that all of our contributors enjoy poetry.

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