Fiona Sampson’s new biography of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, published in January

The poettrio experiment co-investigator Professor Fiona Sampson has written a new biography of Mary Shelley in time for the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Frankenstein. Published by Profile on 18th January 2018 in the UK, and by Pegasus in May 2018 in the US.

Read the publisher’s blurb below to get an idea of Shelley’s dramatic life. Pre order here:  

Mary Shelley was brought up by her father in a house filled with radical thinkers, poets, philosophers and writers of the day. Aged sixteen, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a relationship that was lived on the move across Britain and Europe, as she coped with debt, infidelity and the deaths of three children, before early widowhood changed her life forever. Most astonishingly, it was while she was still a teenager that Mary composed her canonical novel Frankenstein, creating two of our most enduring archetypes today.

The life story is well-known. But who was the woman who lived it? She’s left plenty of evidence, and in this fascinating dialogue with the past, Fiona Sampson sifts through letters, diaries and records to find the real woman behind the story. She uncovers a complex, generous character – friend, intellectual, lover and mother – trying to fulfil her own passionate commitment to writing at a time when to be a woman writer was an extraordinary and costly anomaly.

Published for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, this is a major new work of biography by a prize-winning writer and poet.

Francis R. Jones’s translations of Serbian poet Ivan V. Lalić in Modern Poetry in Translation

The poettrio experiment’s principal investigator Francis R. Jones has had his translations (Serbian –>English) of three poems from Pismo by Ivan V. Lalić (1931 -1996) published in the new issue of Modern Poetry in Translation 2017 Number 3 – War of the Beasts and the Animals

Here is one of the poems, shared for free on their website. Visit their site and buy the issue for more.

In Praise of Sleeplessness

Unsleeping eyes which do not only see
Wallpaper patterns and the morning’s stain
Can read a future summer’s history
Painstakingly hand-written by the rain –
For each leaf’s destiny a single line
Attests to form: each drop’s semantics dream
The future garden’s shape, or the design
Of empty skies which sparkle, skies which scream.

The dreadful blessing of a waking night
Is felt when patience unbraids, from inside,
The eyes, then shifts the broadened roots of sight 
To form new roads where new images ride –
A star is bursting into blooms of sea,
And in a glass of water, silence glitters,
Time after time your pasts keep breaking free, 
No sea could taste as beautiful, as bitter.

Insomnia brings a fresh sleep into play:
Your waking self works on another plane – 
Made in the old day’s image, the new day
Has grown a shadow, so is not in vain;
You take your coat, your keyturn still ignites 
The engine – acts exact but other-led – 
Polysemy sings at the traffic lights,
Weaves a new fabric with three hues of thread…

All those who feel by night that time’s unsure 
Will give a different structure to their day, 
From hour to hour; bound by its simple law, 
They ask ‘Is there a structure anyway?’ 
Insomnia spawns another sort of sleep:
The waking state which recreates you teems
With this new sleep, just as rainwaters seep 
Through desert sands. And in it, freedom gleams –

For those who stay awake, nights are elsewhere, 
A star is bursting into blooms of sea,
Primeval forests, choking, drink the air
And water of a summer still to be;
Last image: sleepless eyes, just like a rear- 
View mirror filled with road as it’s unrolled 
To nothing, glimpse at Eden as they peer 
Into the final sleeplessness, the fold.


PoetTrio Experiment presentation live on YouTube!

PoetTrio research associate Dr Sergio Lobejón Santos has lovingly subtitled and edited the readings and discussions presented at the Translation as Collaboration event in Newcastle in July. 

Visit our YouTube channel to watch the individual segments – and below is the full hour!



“It’s important not to mind too much if you sound ridiculous, or childlike” | Professor Francis Jones in New Statesman

German for dummies: how (not) to master a new language

I’ve been living in Berlin for over a year, yet I remain in a near-constant state of panic.

I have read the American author Jhumpa Lahiri’s New Yorker essay “Teach Yourself Italian” a number of times. It’s an account of more than ten years spent struggling to acquire a new language, a roll-call of textbooks, tutors, grammar drills and trips overseas, which ends on a heartening note: “Translated, from the Italian, by Ann Goldstein.”

The message of the piece is that if Jhumpa did it, you can do it, too. The journey from linguistic exile to a new home is long, but it is possible.

Except not for me. I’ve been living in Berlin for over a year. I have attended classes of varying quality, downloaded apps, puzzled over children’s books and watched bad German sitcoms, yet my own journey might be characterised as a near-constant state of panic, brain fade and isolation, interrupted here and there by brief flashes of insight and comprehension.

In truth, I feel a greater kinship to a different American author, Mark Twain, who concluded his 1880 essay “Die schreckliche deutsche Sprache” (“The Awful German Language”) by arguing: “A gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in 30 hours, French in 30 days, and German in 30 years.”

Just another 29 years to go, then. And I certainly would not consider myself “gifted”. In a fit of irritation, both at myself and a language “so slippery and elusive to the grasp” (Twain again), I sought out some linguistic prodigies to ask them where I might be going wrong.

“It’s important not to mind too much if you sound ridiculous, or childlike,” said Professor Francis Jones, reader in translation studies at the University of Newcastle. “Speaking a language is probably one of the highest-level cognitive skills we do, perhaps equivalent to learning to fly a jumbo jet, and yet we all learn at least one.”