“…it will be no surprise that I deem Capable Monsters by Marlin M. Jenkins a bold, experimental work that investigates youth, Blackness, power, and protection using the Pokéverse as both an organizational tool and a backdrop rich with allegory.” —RITA MOOKERJEE, “Inside the Squirtle Shell Taxonomy, Vulnerability, and Black Boyhood in Marlin M. Jenkins Chapbook Capable Monsters” (Pleiades: Literature in Context)
Capable Monsters moves through entries of the pokémon encyclopedia—the Pokédex—as a way to navigate concerns of identity: otherness, what it means to be considered a monster, how we fit into a larger societal ecosystem. To make space for the validity of oft-dismissed subject material, Marlin M. Jenkins asserts the symbolic, thematic, and narrative richness of worlds like the world of Pokémon: his poems use pokémon as a way to explore cataloguing, childhood, race, queerness, violence, and the messiness of being a human in a world of humans.
“As a lover of poetry who knows nothing about Pokémon, Capable Monsters both satisfies my poetry fix and, strangely enough, makes me feel like I ‘gotta catch ‘em all’! Marlin M. Jenkins has employed a new pantheon that’s been in plain view, though we’ve all been searching for it: avatars, in the form of the popular game and international craze. These poems are the ‘antidote from how the phrases turn’ around us daily, when we’re doubting ourselves and doubting the world in which we try to live with one another. We all need a ‘spiked monster there, protecting [a] friend.’ These poems are the capable monsters we need to advance to the next level of our lives on days when you’re the only person who looks like you, ‘in the room / like you are so often,’ and then ‘you feel… and [you] wish to sing.’”
—A. VAN JORDAN, author of The Cineaste
“Pokémon is a game of adventure and of taxonomy; it’s a story of conquering a world by collecting, understanding, and wielding the monsters that inhabit it. In Capable Monsters, Marlin M. Jenkins seeks to catalogue the strange creatures of this world: violence, memory, mental illness, the lonely spaces that racism and heteropatriarchy carve out. With musical precision and immense clarity of heart, Jenkins inhabits the taxonomizing power of the Pokédex in order to understand how those who have been called monstrous might not only live, but perhaps even—dare I say it— become the very best, like no one ever was.”
—FRANNY CHOI, author of Soft Science
“A quick thumb-through of Capable Monsters will reveal a playful and intuitive attention to form, shape, and an interest in Pokémon, a pop culture reference we might otherwise take for granted as harmless. A deeper read will show you a mind interested in considering that reference as a filter through which to question the borders of violence and empathy in childhood and beyond. ‘Have I / ever loved anything / I was not afraid of?’ Marlin M. Jenkins asks—the answer is this gift of a chapbook.”
—TARFIA FAIZULLAH, author of Register of Illuminated Villages
Read a sample poem:
I was a boy and then
I switched from milk.
I was a moth and then
a boy plucked the wings
and rubbed them into
I was a stumbling block
the wood cracked
and from the outside
you couldn’t see the splinters.
I was a monster
I am a monster
but with different teeth.
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