a basket of poetry and writing from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

About the Author

Iep Jeltok (yiyip jalteq). “A basket whose opening is facing the speaker.”

Said of female children, she represents a basket whose contents are made available to her relatives. Also refers to matrilineal society of the Marshallese.

“Iep jeltok ajiri ne” – You are fortunate to have a girl child.

- Marshallese English Dictionary

Iep Jeltok is one of my favorite Marshallese sayings and I use it here as an introduction for what I’m giving to the world through this blog: a basket full of writing and poetry.

My name is Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and I am a Marshallese poet, writer, performance artist and journalist.

I’ve started this blog as a way of sharing my poetry with the world, and to openly display my thoughts – through the good times and the bad times as I work towards shaping my first collection of poetry.

My poetry mainly focuses on raising awareness surrounding the issues and threats faced by my people. Nuclear testing conducted in our islands, militarism, the rising sea level as a result of climate change, forced migration, adaptation and racism in America – these are just a few themes my poetry touches upon. Besides these, I also use poetry as a means of understanding the people and the world around me.

Along with writing, I also love to perform. A lot of my poetry is performance based. I’ve competed in slam poetry competitions and performed at showcases, conferences, and various literature readings. I’ve also hosted open mics and written and performed my own solo piece.

Journalism is my side gig. I use it to promote the achievements of Marshallese people, and to promote my topics of interest. Many of my articles have been published online and in my home island’s newspaper The Marshall Islands Journal.

Should you have any questions, or are interested in publishing any of these works, please contact me at

23 thoughts on “About the Author

  1. Dang you have really inspired me with your poetry..You’re getting us out there..Our culture..Keep it up! Inspire the world

  2. love your poem about Micros in Hawaii…you are awesome and inspire me

  3. Just what seriously stimulated u to write “IEP JELTOK”?
    I personallyabsolutely enjoyed reading it! Thanks for the post -Anton

    • I think not seeing my own story and the stories of Marshallese people out there in the world is what inspired me to start writing. Thanks so much for your interest and your support!

  4. Saw you yesterday at UHH and couldn’t stop crying throughout your poem. The message is powerful and I will share it with the PI students who come to our school. Keep inspiring!

  5. I absolutely love seeing your work in this context. Thank you for sharing. –Acord

  6. Yowke, I just wanted to say your poem “Lessons From Hawaii” brought me to tears, and inspired me to write a little poem for our Marshallese and other Micronesian brothers and sisters. Keep doing what you’re doing im kate yuk ilo aolep men bwe you’re doing a great job! Kommol bwe you made me more proud to be 50% Ri-Majol than I ever have been in my life. REAL TALK!

  7. We are listening. Please keep writing.

  8. The following post, “IEP JELTOK | a basket of poetry
    and writing from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner” zuisg displays the fact that you actually comprehend precisely what u r talking about!

    I really totally agree with your post. Thanks a lot -Shella

  9. Thank you for your support everyone!:)

  10. Kathy,
    Your poems and the story of you people have really touched me and a group of my classmates. We are doing a group sympossium on the Marshall Islands and the nuclear testing that took place in the 50s. I would love to get your story to include in our project. As my introduction I will be performing a part of your poem ” History Project” I would really love to hear more from someone who has first hand seen the impact of this testing. Your work is amazing and I hope to hear from you.


  11. can you post that lessons from hawaii quote please…

  12. Hi Kathy,

    we saw one of your great videos on YouTube.

    We are a German film crew around an Oscar winning director who is planning to shoot a feature documentary.

    He would be very interested in having you as a part in the movie. This blog is the only contact information I found about you.

    I would love to give you more detailed information about our project via email.

    Would be great hearing back from you as soon as possible.

    kind regards,

  13. You’re truly an inspiration. Thank you.

  14. Hi, Kathy
    I have read and listened to your poems and they are empowering. it was eye opening and shocking to know that things like that occurred. I feel that anyone can relate to your poems, especially Lessons from Hawaii. I was once an outcast and was picked on because I was different from others. Classmates talked about me because I dressed different and I didn’t sound like them because I had an accent. There are other cultures or people out there that have experienced what you experienced. It is good to have someone to voice their expressions or opinions about an issue. Your poems are really inspiring. I’m looking forward to more of your work.

    • Hi Chantel. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I actually always begin that poem by asking my audience (especially if they’re a young crowd) if they’ve ever been judged, for whatever reason. I always try to explain that although the poem focuses on being Micronesian, it’s a story that many of us can relate to whether or not we are Micronesian. Thank you for your kind words and for your support :)

  15. Potential is within reach at all times, and it’s sad when I see lack of interest in some of our Marshallese youth and even adults. Aspiring to stand up for one self is like proclaiming you’ll always be the status quo. Too many musicians, comedians, artists, may I say fashion designers, educators, scientists, so on and so, in plenty of Micronesians I come across. But working minimum wage and getting food stamps seems to be all the rage nowadays. Keep up the good work. We need more young girls who will not only think outside the box, but permanently remove the box and change THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. lol. I really enjoy poetry that comes from the heart, cause that’s the place where words are jumbled and bunched up together and only comes out with an hysterical boom. Keep on posting, and I’ll keep on reading.

  16. We’re all proud of you and your great work. Speak the truth and you have. Kommol.

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