Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
EducationUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Mills College
Notable work
'Dear Matafele Peinem' (poem)
AwardsImpact Hero of the Year (Earth Company)

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet and climate change activist from the Marshall Islands.

Jetnil-Kijiner was born in the Marshall Islands and raised in Hawaii.[1] She attended Mills College in California[2] and pursued an MA in Pacific Island Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.[3][4]

Jetnil-Kijiner's poetry highlights issues around the environment and climate change. She also explores social injustice including colonialism, migration, and racism.[3][5]

Her first collections of poetry, entitled Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter, was published in 2017 by the University of Arizona Press.[3][6] It is considered the first published book of poetry written by someone from the Marshall Islands.[5]

She is a cofounder of the environmental nonprofit organization Jo-Jikum (Jodrikdrik in Jipan ene eo e Kutok Maroro) which aims to support Marshallese youth in taking action on climate change and environmental issues that affect the Marshall Islands.[3][7]

Jetnil-Kijiner currently teaches at the College of the Marshall Islands as the Pacific Studies faculty instructor.[1][8]


In 2014, Jetnil-Kijiner was chosen to address the United Nations Climate Summit. She performed the piece, 'Dear Matafele Peinem', at the opening ceremony in New York.[3][9] In 2015 she was invited to speak at COP21 in Paris.[1]

In 2015 she was selected by Vogue magazine as one of 13 Climate Warriors[10] and in 2017 named Impact Hero of the Year by Earth Company[1] In 2012 she represented the Marshall Islands at the Poetry Parnassus Festival in London.[1][4]

Notable Work[edit]

Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter (2017)[edit]

In 2017, Jetnil-Kijiner made history by being the first Marshallese author to publish a book, a collection of poems entitled Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter.[5] Her book engages with themes of the human, socioeconomic, and environmental crisis that the Marshall Islands encountered due to the United State’s military occupation. Her poems outline the daily lives of the Marshallese as they follow their customs and traditions while experiencing environmental problems as a result of nuclear testings, colonialism, and climate change.[11]

"Rise: From One Island to Another" (2018)[edit]

In 2018, Jetnil-Kijiner collaborated with Aka Niviâna, a climate change activist poet from Greenland, to write a poem about their stories of climate change. The poem, "Rise: From One Island to Another," explains the destruction of two opposite homelands and the reality of melting icecaps and rising sea levels.[12] In an interview with Grist Magazine, Jetnil-Kijiner said that "when she found herself face-to-face with a physical body that threatens to submerge her ancestral homeland, she felt reverence, not anger." [13]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Earth Company Impact Hero 2017: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner". Earth Company. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Mills College Viewbook 2015". Mills College Viewbook. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner". Pacific Community. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b Maclellan, Nic (22 November 2014). "Young Pacific islanders are not climate change victims – they're fighting". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter". The University of Arizona Press. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  6. ^ Jetnil-Kijiner, Kathy (2017). Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816534029.
  7. ^ "Meet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Marshall Islands - Nobel Women's Initiative". Nobel Women's Initiative. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner". Women’s Media Center. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the Climate Summit - UN Climate Summit 2014". UN Climate Summit 2014. 23 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  10. ^ Russell, Cameron (30 November 2015). "Climate Warriors". Vogue. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  11. ^ Keown, Michelle (3 October 2017). "Children of Israel: US Military Imperialism and Marshallese Migration in the Poetry of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner". Interventions. 19 (7): 930–947. doi:10.1080/1369801X.2017.1403944. ISSN 1369-801X.
  12. ^ McKibben, Bill (12 September 2018). "High ice and hard truth: the poets taking on climate change". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Indigenous poets read urgent climate message on a melting glacier". Grist. 1 November 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2019.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]