Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1949 and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. She was Writer in Residence at the Randell Cottage in 2008, and Visiting Literary Artist at Massey University in 2010. She is also a playwright and her stage play The Third Age was shortlisted for the Adam Award this year. Her manuscript This City won the Kathleen Grattan Award and will be published by Otago University Press in July. 'Mi Scappa una Poesia' was published in her book Barefoot, which was produced by Picaro Press in 2010.
Compton comments: ‘I was fooling around writing bits of poetry online with a friend called Paolo who lives in Genoa and he expostulated “Mi scappa una poesia”. I was intrigued by this and understood it to mean “a poem escapes from me”. So, when I was asked at the Genoa Poetry Festival to write a take on The Poetic Reconstruction of the Universe, I entitled my rant “Mi Scappa una Poesia”. Then I found out that the phrase plays with a coarse vernacular expression and means “a poem escapes from me like a belch or a fart”. I also found out – oh my woeful ignorance – that Depero and Bella had written a radical manifesto called Futurist Reconstruction Of The Universe (1915), so that resonance had escaped me too. However it seemed to go over quite well as I read it in English with simultaneous translation. But I did screech to a halt when I got to the word “haka”. I was suddenly almost paralysed with wondering what haka was in Italian. My Genoese friend said later “Simple. Haka is haka.”
It took me a long time to realise this piece, this monologue, might be, almost, a poem. It performed well, but it wasn't neat enough on the page for my taste. But in the end I decided – oh well, it is something - and banged it into my book Barefoot. By the by, the “little room”, the “piccola camera”, was inspired by the Little Room, as the locals call it, in the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, which Paolo had teased me into seeing. I had been expecting – oh I don't know – a cloakroom, or a small sitting room. Instead I was led into bijou magnificence. The Big Room, next door, was even grander and more over-whelming. But that was for public receptions. I was told the Little Room was used to greet visiting dignitaries. Like kings.’