Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet, author, and facilitator, was born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (Treaty One). She currently lives in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples. Kirton graduated from the Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio in 2007 where she now teaches a workshop titled Pen & Sword. She is a longstanding member of their Advisory Board. A late-blooming poet, she was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category.
Her interest in the stories of her Métis and Icelandic ancestors is the common thread throughout much of her writing. In 2018 her poem, untethered, about her mixed ancestry, was selected to be a part of the Winnipeg wall to wall mural festival. A picture of the mural can be found at her website.
Kirton’s first collection of poetry, page as bone – ink as blood, was released with Talonbooks in 2015. Joanne Arnott described this collection as “restorative, intimate poetry, drawing down ancestral ideas into the current moments breath.” Her second collection, An Honest Woman, was released in 2018 with Talonbooks and was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Betsy Warland had this to say about An Honest Woman: “Kirton picks over how she was raised familially and culturally like a crime scene.”
Her interest in equity and inclusion was behind the creation of Turtle Island Responds, a news related online poetry series. Kirton believes lived experience should get more attention than what is normally on offer from the news and saw this series as a way to create more space for those who often find their communities misrepresented or passed over. This series was a short-term project which she developed and curated with the assistance and support of Room Magazine where she was a board member for several years. It featured emerging and established poets and can be found at roommagazine.com/turtle-island-responds.
Kirton currently considers herself to be in semi-retirement and one of her “part-time” jobs is doing manuscript consults either as a self-employed consultant or as one of Betsy Warland’s mentors in the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive.
Short-listed 2018 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize