Marlin Jenkins, Not The Poet
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What do you think is the responsibility of an ally?
Some people are really pushing against that word: ally. I think that’s useful. In general, I think my view on a lot of things is to resist the buzzword because there are all these associated meanings that come with it. If I say ally, and you say ally, and some other person says ally it might mean three different things. But there is this assumed meaning that gets attached to it. I think part of my expectation of an ally then is to push beyond what we call ally, and to interrogate that. I think all of our jobs, as humans, and all of our responsibility should be to interrogate ourselves and I think that’s often missing. A lot of allyship is more interested in the outward than it is on the inward, and that’s a problem. It’s the “Look who I am and what I’m doing and under what role and label am I operating more than, this is the work I’m doing internally, even when that’s not always visible.”
What’s the hardest thing for you to be emotionally honest about?
The immediate answer is probably the intensity of my depression. It also depends on if we’re talking poems or if we’re talking about real life. Something that I struggle with in interactions with people is that I never want to feel like I’m bogging people down or burdening them. I’m always very nervous that I’m being like, “Oh, look how depressed I am, look how hard my struggle is,” and I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be someone who’s exploiting my struggle and my mental illness. Or exploiting issues of race or class or background. I don’t want to over focus on those things, even though they need their time and expression. Especially because I feel like I talk a lot, too. I either don’t talk at all or I just don’t stop talking. There’s no in-between, and then I feel like I’m taking up too much space. That’s hard for me, in person. I don’t have many problems talking about mental health in my poems. I’m very comfortable in that space while I’m writing it. I do think I struggle being emotionally honest as it relates to loneliness. I think a part of that might honestly be some of my poetic biases. If I’m like, “Oh, this is how lonely I am,” it’ll feel like a journal entry, not a poem. I think the easy answer to that is that sometimes I need to be journaling, not writing poems. Being honest with myself, there’s a thrill of “What is it that I need to be doing to continue to move forward?”
Marlin Jenkins has been published in The Journal, Yemassee, The Puritan, Cura, Banango Street, Squalorly, Cheap Pop and others.