By Jody DiPerna
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Local poet Corrine Jasmin’s new collection takes the reader on a journey with her through her 20s. She writes about her own alienation and identity, about being a woman, about being black and about being queer.
At the same time, Jasmin refuses to be limited by those terms. “It’s just part of holding on to my identity and not wavering. But I’m not out to just create black art, or queer art. I feel like there’s this idea in the air where I only have to write about race issues or I only have to write about discrimination of women. I just write about my actual experience,” Jasmin told the Current.
Jasmin is also a filmmaker, photographer and screenwriter. Wearing so many creative hats, she wanted to drop anchor and put a cohesive collection of her work together. The work is honest, bracing and daring. It’s title, Tread, is, like most of her work, both a literal truth and an elegant metaphor.
“I’m actually not that great of a treader in real life,” Jasmin laughed. “I grew up on Lake Erie, but I never found myself able to tread water. I can swim pretty well, but I’ve always struggled with [treading].”
In 2017, USA Today published a study that ranked Erie, Pennsylvania as the worst city to live for African Americans, based on income, unemployment and other economic markers.
“It’s not a place where black people thrive,” Jasmin said.
Living in the inner-city, a city where black median income was just 43% of white median income, and busing to the white suburbs for school was a real push-pull for the young writer. The adversity shaped her voice.
“I spent a lot of time being ashamed of my identity and also resonating with my identity.”
The difficulty and disaffection of growing up female, queer and black are prominent themes in some of the poems. The ones she wrote after the 2016 election as a “way to get those things out” of her body are nakedly political. But most of the work is deeply personal.
She believes her candor can pave a road to connect with the reader. She writes intimately about family and loss and heartbreak. She brings freshness to writing about beauty and inhabiting space in that black, female body.
She also explores her struggles with anxiety and depression. Creating art has always been a way to understand and confront her experiences and her struggles, pain and triumphs. In her poem, ‘Are you Still Watching Ep. 3,’ she writes,
“The scar on my wrist holds.
Very sorry for the scare.
I was trying to scare myself.
My inner me. Championing for me.
Screaming at me. Crying for me. At me. With me.”
The aim is always to be completely honest in her work. And that honesty, she believes, is what creates a universal human language.
“Even when I’m not explicit, sometimes it’s me coming out of depressive bouts or coming out of an anxious episode, or me entering them or what’s causing them. People who have just experienced their first heartbreak … all of those human moments. Once you recognize a human moment—it can’t be written for one particular person.”
Jasmin will read at Alphabet City on May 31st. Her reading will be followed by a moderated question and answer session. The event is part of City of Asylum’s ”Stories That Heal’ programming in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Keystone. ‘Stories That Heal’ is a monthly event featuring local writers who address different aspects of mental illness.