Maybe I’m
writing the tide towards
an equilibrium
willing the world
to find its balance
– “Two Degrees”, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

From the rising shorelines of the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s Iep Jāltok offers a poetic testimony of the Anthropocene.

In this debut collection from the first published Marshallese poet, Jetñil-Kijiner speaks to the violent histories of nuclear testing, racism, and militarism that affect the region. The poems grieve, bearing witness to irrevocable loss at both local and planetary scales. At the same time, they give voice to a fierce poetics of resistance, resonant with the message from youth-led grassroots organisation 350 Pacific at COP26: “We are not drowning, we are fighting”.

Jetñil-Kijiner takes the objects, forms, and rhythms of her archipelagic home and weaves them into her writing. On the page, the shapes of the words and the spaces between them are evocative of baskets, shells, fishbones, and tidal patterns. In this way, Iep Jāltok celebrates the oceanic nature and matrilineal traditions of the Marshall Islands. This important collection offers ways of thinking about our responsibility and connection to Pacific communities during a time of planetary sea change.

The Stories from the South Book Club will meet live at Dymocks Bookstore Rundle Mall on March 26 at 6-7.30pm for a discussion of Iep Jāltok.

This will be an in-person conversation between award-winning poet Jill Jones and Associate Professor Mandy Treagus, scholar of Pasifika and 19th-century literature, art and culture, together with Theodora Galanis.

Copies of Iep Jāltok can be purchased at Dymocks Rundle Mall or sourced from libraries or electronically.

Register here for this free public event. Follow InReview and the website’s Stories from the South page for further updates on the Stories from the South program.

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