Death, desire, and divination are the threads running through Jónína Kirton’s debut collection of poems and lyric prose. Delicate and dark, the pieces are like whispers in the night – a haunted, quiet telling of truths the mind has locked away but the body remembers. Loosely autobiographical, these are the weavings of a wagon-goddess who ventures into the double-world existence as a mixed-race woman. In her struggle for footing in this in-between space, she moves from the disco days of trance dance to contemplations in her dream kitchen as a mother and wife.
With this collection, Kirton adds her voice to the call for the kind of fierce honesty referred to by Muriel Rukeyser when she asked, What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open. Kirton tells her truth with gentleness and patience, splitting the world open one line at a time.
Jónína Kirton is a Métis/Icelandic poet and author who lives and works in Vancouver. She graduated from Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio in 2007 and attended the Emerging Aboriginal Writer’s Residency at the Banff Centre in 2008. Actively involved with the Aboriginal Writers Collective – West Coast, she coordinated the first National Indigenous Writers Conference in Vancouver 2013. In 2015 Kirton joined the editorial board of Room Magazine. Kirton’s work has been featured in numerous anthologies and literary journals, including Ricepaper’s Asian & Aboriginal issue, V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out, Pagan Edge, First Nations Drum, Toronto Quarterly, and Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine. She won first prize and two honorable mentions in the 2013 Royal City Literary Arts Society’s Write On! Contest and was a finalist in the 2013 Burnaby Writers’ Society Writing Contest. page as bone – ink as blood was published to wide critical acclaim in 2015. Her second book, An Honest Woman, was a Finalist for the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
“page as bone – ink as blood is restorative, intimate poetry, drawing down ancestral ideas into the current moment’s breath. Writing from a place of ‘curious contradiction,’ ‘of skin a little wild,’ Kirton begins by re-spinning the threads of indigenous immigrant, and poem by poem shoves the shuttle forward and back, remaking human integrity from ghosts and bloody matter. In these words, skin is not a barrier but a doorway through which the worlds stride. Kirton’s poems are peacemaking, both generous gesture and much-needed literary poultice.”
“Kirton’s poems are peacemaking, both generous gesture and much-needed literary poultice.”
“Jónína Kirton sifts through her life – our lives – picking up piercing images and sorting stories of the senses, exploring the push-pull of being human, the delight and ambivalence of being in our own skin. Slowly, by being faithful to the moments, her poems find fragments of freedom by telling the truth.”
—Oriah Mountain Dreamer
“Jónína Kirton’s memoir in verse could be an epic novel, a haunting ballad, a film noir. What it is: a visitation by ghosts and spirits, familial secrets, and retrieved historical mis-memories. As intermediaries between European and Indian cultures, she retraces her Métis inheritance and her own arduous journey to becoming a twenty-first-century guide we are much in need of.”
“[Kirton] retraces her Métis inheritance and her own arduous journey to becoming a twenty-first-century guide we are much in need of.”
“These are poems out of a woman’s experience and the matriarchy. Some of the most moving and affecting poems within the collection are love letters to the writer’s/speaker’s mother, who has died from breast cancer. … Kirton avoids outright confessional by raising the question of what voice is and can be, and does this as a poet. … introducing the awareness of human fallibility and how “story” is fraught, gives the writing authenticity and the writer welcome authority. Moments like this in writing are hard won and as such are to be treasured and sustained.” — The Maynard