Marlin M. Jenkins
Question: At this moment in time, which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?
This poem was first published in the Indiana Review. Link to Marlin poem pdf
Link to another Pokedex poem in Passages North.
I love beginnings, and my favorite part of most video games are the openings: how they orient you to the world, establish an atmosphere, immerse you in the life of the game. This is especially true for me in Pokémon games, the moment where you’re starting your journey, choosing your first pokémon to be your adventuring partner. So much possibility! At the same time, though, I resist the idea that true “fresh starts” exist: no matter where we begin there’s always something that exists before, that continues to be at play.
This poem is all about beginnings, and I wanted to lean into the idea of how a fresh start is both exciting and impossible—building on the premise from the epigraph, a quote from bulbasaur’s entry in the Pokémon encyclopedia/Pokédex: what inheritances do I carry that are inevitable factors in how I live and grow? In part, though it’s not stated directly, this poem is a rebuttal to one of the most famous quotes from the Pokémon franchise, the legendary Mewtwo in Pokemon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back stating, “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” It’s a nice thought, and perhaps not entirely untrue, but it feels to me misguided and over-simplified, and I’ve always felt that having Mewtwo say this really betrays his character arc. I wanted to take what’s compelling about that statement and complicate it, add nuance.
Chapbook available here.
This poem is the first poem in my Pokédex series to appear in my forthcoming chapbook, Capable Monsters (Bull City Press, 2020), which feels especially fitting as bulbasaur is both the first entry in the Pokédex and the first pokémon I ever had in a Pokémon game as a kid. And, along with “Pokédex Entry #131: Lapras”, this poem made me feel like this series was going somewhere, that it would be more than just a fun and productive exercise and could be a something that I wanted to make it out into the world.