An Interview with Sarah Endo, "Jealousy in x parts"


Can you discuss the meaning of the title "Jealousy in x parts"?

The title and organizing principle of the poem were inspired by Matt Rasmussen’s “Elegy in X Parts.” My poetry teacher, Matthew Lippman, pointed out Rasmussen’s beautiful use of “x” to represent something unquantifiable: in this case, a loved one’s suicide. Lippman challenged me to write a poem using “‘x’ as a manifestation of something that is constant but which is also highly unknowable...” “Jealousy in x parts” was the result.

You’re on a deserted island with only one poem. Which one is it and why?

My companion poem of choice would be Carl Sandburg’s “The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle.” This was the first poem I ever loved, and I still delight in the inventiveness and music of the language: the sleepyheads, with their heads “slimpsing down,” and the musical soup eaters who “whistled and chuzzled and snozzled” their soup.

What have you learned about the craft of writing poetry?

For me a poem has to start with a strong feeling—it could be jealousy, fear, delight, wonder. The intensity of the emotion is what carries me through, keeps me going in writing and rewriting the poem, crafting the words and sounds, but always trying to get at the feeling.