This week’s show features the poetry of the amazing Marshallese daughter and climate-change activist Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner. In a twist on our regular format, Kathy had a dear friend, Lee Kava select the music to be played around her work. Shout out to Lee for her careful curatory work and musical stylings. You can find Lee’s rationale for why she chose these songs to accompany and amplify tones from Kathy’s poetry below. And, for folks who don’t know, I can tell you that Lee is a Hafekasi poet and musician of Tongan descent currently pursuing her PhD in creative writing at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is a gorgeous poet and singer who I definitely hope to feature on this show very soon!
BIO: A recent graduate from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Center for Pacific Island Studies and a climate change activist extraordinaire, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner is a Marshallese poet, writer, performance artist, and journalist. As she says on her website, her poetry mainly focuses on raising awareness surrounding the issues and threats faced by her people. Nuclear testing conducted in Oceania, militarism, the rising sea level as a result of climate change, forced migration, adaptation and racism in the U.S.–these are just a few themes her poetry touches upon. Poetry, Kathy states, is her means of understanding the people and the world around her.
- SONG: Try the Pie’s “Old Wounds.” From Lee Kava: “Try the Pie is a California-based band led by Tongan lead singer, writer, musician, Christine ‘Bean’ Tupou. I chose this song to start Kathy’s set because of the sharpness between intensity, attitude and haunting that lives in this song’s guitar lines, vocals, lyrics. I thought this song—in the way it moves between both the gentle and the cutting—would be a good introduction to Kathy’s first poem, ‘My Rosy Cousin.'”
- POEM: Kathy performs her poem “My Rosy Cousin” from her new book.
- SONG: Tirzah’s “Inside Out.” From Lee Kava: “I chose this track to follow ‘My Rosy Cousin’ and set up Kathy’s next poem, ‘Fishbone Hair,’ in order to continue with the theme of relationship between subtle vocals and cutting lyrics and beat. Listening to any of Tirzah’s tracks, for me, mirrors listening to or reading Kathy’s poetry—the smooth cadence of Kathy’s phrasing, the surfaces of her voice, the precision with which she brings you through her images, all hone the emotional impact of her words.”
- POEM: Kathy performs her poem “Fishbone Hair,” also from her new book.
- SONG: Santigold’s “Pirate in the Water.” From Lee Kava: “I chose this song to follow ‘Fishbone Hair’ because the vocals, lyrics, and beat of this track are, to me, a rendering of sound of that evokes mixed currents of memory, rage, worry, grief, and history. I thought it might be a good song to move between the message of ‘Fishbone Hair’ to the message of ‘Dear Matafele Peinam,’ which Kathy performed for the opening ceremony of the 2014 UN Secretary-General’s Summit on Climate Change.”
- POEM: Kathy’s statement and poem for Matafele Peinam form the UN Climate Summit 2014 Opening Ceremony
- SONG: Try the Pie’s “ʻAlu ā.” From Lee Kava: “I chose this song, also by Try the Pie, to finish the set as a way of thinking about our relationships to our islands. ʻAlu ā is Tongan for goodbye that is relational to the speakers involved—when you say ʻalu ā, you are saying goodbye as someone leaves—you are the one staying. I think about this in relation to our islands and moving between homes across the Pacific. Our friends and families move so often, we move around so much, but even the relational elements of our languages remind us that some one, something, is staying in place. In this time of climate change, Kathy’s poetry reminds me that we are fighting for our reference points, our homes—the homes that we are coming to know better and the ones we have always had. I chose this song to complete this feature in order to connect the lyrics of “‘Alu ā” with the message, reminder, and calls to action of Kathy’s work.”
Purchase Kathy’s book here. Or, for you lucky folks who are on Oʻahu this Monday, come to Kathy’s launch event to purchase and get your copy signed by the author herself!