Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

a basket of writing from author 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 jkijiner@gmail.com.

51 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.

  17. I live in Guam, and my University of Guam creative writing teacher, Dr.Kelley Bowman, shared your work with our class. Your message is not only inspirational, but so well spoken and powerful. Thank you for sharing your voice with the world (and with me).

  18. I just heard you speak at the UN Climate Summit, and you have an amazing gift. You words paint truth and demand action. Please continue to do what you do, the world needs more of you.

  19. Just watched the video of your performance/piece at the UN summit and I’m a fan! Love your poetry. Love learning more about the Marshall Islands through your work and it’s great to see other Pacific Islanders representing on the world stage.

  20. Kathy/Dedz, I am so proud of you speaking at the UN and your poem was fabulous! Can you send me a shorter version of it to publishing in my upcoming Green Writers Press Magazine?!
    Maybe a whole book for the US/North American poetry series we are doing? Take a look at our website: http://www.greenwriterspress.com.
    Thanks for everything you do! Dede

    email: dede@greenwriterspress.com

    Blessings to you and your family.

  21. Just saw you poem at the UN. Very proud of you young lady

  22. Hello my name is Olivia, I am a high school student living on the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands. My mom and I were watching your poem presentation at the UN conference on global warming and were both really inspired by your words and expressions. We were also wondering where you learned to write your poetry. Keep on writing and we can’t wait to read more!

  23. Pingback: Catalyzing Action: Generation Y needs to stop climate change | Kelia Cowan

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  25. Wow, have never felt so much healing from a poem before, UN summit performance was heart touching! Thank you and please keep inspiring 🙂 The world needs help healing as we move forward, because we all feel the pain of the planet on some level, please continue to provide this with your beautiful words.

  26. Iakwe woj jolok bar ak I was jus wondering if u can give me some background information of ur sibling, dad, and mother I’m doing a project on u and I’ve been very inspired by what you’ve done but all I’m asking is can u please help me out on my project if it’s okay tho

  27. Hi Kathy, my friend and I attended your presentation at the University of Guam last month, and girl! you are just absolutely brilliant and so inspirational!
    Keep up the wonderful work. We’re rooting for you girl!

  28. 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 about here in Hawaii. It is really true. I’m really inspired by your words.

    • Hi Marsay – thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 I appreciate it. I’m curious about why you can relate to Lessons from Hawaii. Are you Micronesian?

  29. Hi Kathy: The Mills Quarterly would like to interview you for article on alums working for social/environmental justice. Would you have time for a phone call in the next couple weeks? The magazine editor, Linda Schmidt, sent an email to you with more information but we’re not sure it got through. I’m the writer — and from the Philippines and Hawaii, so have a particular interest in your work.

    • Hi Dawn so sorry for taking so long! Is it too late?

      • No, it’s not too late! Can you email me at dawncc@sbcglobal.net to let me know the best way to reach you via email or phone, and whether you have time for an email or phone interview, hopefully sometime within the next 7 days? Thanks so much. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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  31. Hi Kathy. I am a follower from the Philippines. 🙂 Thank you for inspiring me with your works. 🙂

  32. Hi. Kathy.
    Apreciate to yours.
    Keep writing i am listening.
    I do my part here arround my village. My beach. My community.
    Thanks a lots.

  33. Hi
    Just caught your rendition this lunchtime on Jeremy Vine. Your words made me cry and made me feel so sad for the Marshall Islands. 😢 Where can I hear your poem again? I also missed the title of it.
    All the best with your campaign in saving the islands for future generations. I will think of you when I do my little bit to save the planet.
    Kindest regards to you and your family.

  34. wow your poem, i don’t know how to express my thought, they really are inspiring

  35. Dear Kathy, I am a deep admirer or the poem you read at last year’s (2014) COP and would love to publish it in two ways. First on a blog called Water, Water Everywhere: Poetry, Short Prose and Art: https://waterpoetryprose.wordpress.com/, and next in a developing art show called “Nowhere to Run: Climate Refugees. I have, so far, a Facebook page for it https://www.facebook.com/Nowhere-to-Run-Climate-Refugees-1563345717219398/?fref=ts and am sending out calls. I hope to hear from you and thank you so very much for your good work, yoiur creativity, your sharp and beautiful mind. Jennifer Heath/founder-director, baksun books & arts for social & environmental justice.

  36. Aloha Kathy. Miki Tomita and the Worldwide Voyage team (Hokule’a) are interested in talking with you as part of their Navigators of Island Earth series. I thought I had your email address, but I do not. Do you mind sending it to me so they can contact you? My address is bill_teter@universitylaboratoryschool.org . Or, if you want to avoid the middleperson, you could contact Miki yourself at miki.k.tomita@gmail.com .
    As I read through these notes and those I occasionally see on your FB page, I am filled with a new respect for your strength and your soul. And when I read your work, I am filled again with admiration for your skill as a writer. I am so very lucky I had the chance to know you for a while.
    By the way, in a bookstore on Maui last month I found, of all things, a copy of “Write On, HEA” with a winning story you wrote in, I believe, 8th grade. Sweet…
    Take care, you and your family.
    Bill Teter

  37. Dear Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Thank you so much for your inspiring courage and humility. I am speaking in my church on Sunday about Climate Justice, and will be sharing some of your poetry if that’s alright. I also belong to the Red Shed Poets in Wakefield, Yorkshire. The recent floods here are a reminder that you are standing up for all who suffer from the effects of Climate Change. With every blessing on you and your family and community. Rupert Martin

  38. Pingback: Poetry for climate action | NB Media Co-op

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