The Last Word with Jennifer Compton

Amanda Anastasi talks to Jennifer Compton about Now You Shall Know.

This collection contains observations about family and the various people you have encountered. There is the woman at Flinders St Station, the Dutch widow, a Frankston masseur. Has anyone recognised themselves in your poems?

No. I am thinking of going down the road though, and showing the Dutch widow her poem. I would have loved to have been a photographer. I should have been one.

The subtitle of your title poem Now You Shall Know mentions an aria sung by Maria Callas. Were you listening to this piece while you were writing this poem? Do you listen to music while you are writing?

I wasn’t, and no I don’t. There are enough sounds that surround us. I can’t take too much noise these days.

The Name Of The Street refers to Hope Street in Brunswick, where Jill Meagher was murdered. What kind of response did you receive to this poem.?

Interestingly, there has been more interest in this poem overseas.

If you could choose the name of the street you lived in, what would it be called?

Bridge Street. I used to live in Bridge Street. The bridge between Australia and New Zealand, the bridge between page and stage, between men and women, between young and old. I like to be in the middle.

In Four Lines By Ezra Pound you touch on plagiarism. How difficult is it to be original?

It is difficult not to be original.

What is your favourite word?

Emeraude, a word I must have misread years ago in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, because I can’t find it in any of the versions now. I thought I read – ‘as green as emeraude’.

Name the poetry collection you have kept referring to.

Selected Poems by Yevtushenko, in the Penguin Modern European Poets series.

A poem I have read many times is Auden’s September 1, 1939.

Poetic self-portrait: in no more than seven words, describe Jennifer Compton.

First this, then that, then the other.

Jennifer Compton’s book Now You Shall Know (Five Islands Press) is available from Collected Works.

Amanda Anastasi