Natasha SajÃ© started writing stories at age six and has now published two books of poems. An English professor at Westminster College, she also keeps busy as the adviser for the national literature and art journal, Ellipsis, and as director of the Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poetry Series.
What was your first job?
Cleaning houses when I was 14'I had three regulars: a pair of divorced men; a working mother; and a family whose teenage daughter read magazines by the pool while I cleaned her room!
What’s the best opening of any book you’ve ever read?
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
Why do poetry and madness often go hand in hand?
I think people tend to remember the poets whose lives were tragic, but that a lot of us are responsible and sane. However, to write good poetry'to produce any kind of art, for that matter'the artist must negotiate contradiction and rebel against the status quo, the clichÃ©.
The etymology of words is something important to you. What is your favorite word with interesting roots?
A word that got me started on etymology and understanding history as ideology was “vanilla,” from Latin, “vagina,” the term for sheath. I have a poem about this word in my first book.
Do you consider haiku true poetry?
Of course, although the culture that produces them is so different from U.S. culture I’m not sure they are entirely translatable.
Which poet do you have a secret crush on?
I love reading Anne Carson’s work because it is surprising and passionate.