An Honest Woman

Poet Jonina Kirton goes right for the tough stuff. What it means to be a woman, how to deal with the trauma inflicted by fathers (and mothers) and sometime the whole entire world

Her collection, an honest woman, is beautiful, raw and relatable.  She writes about Trump (although he is none of these things) and how his infamous pussy statements make women feel. Who says poetry isn’t keeping up with modern times? Kirton’s is.

“we know our flesh is considered
a place of entertainment
by a man who says
I just grab them
by the pussy …
and whole country
that ignored whistles
from a dog
with a bone
picked clean
by toothy lies”

She ponders the role women have been assigned in ‘to be female’. I myself ponder this, half resentfully. Mostly resentfully. I can barely take care of myself.

“how many times have I fallen on
the sharp edge of obligation
no one expects your husband to visit
the dying
no      this is
women’s
work”

In ‘things I learned from my mother’ she writes:
“there are recipes on soup cans
Campbell’s knows how to feed a family
if your husband is faithful      a good provider
                            be grateful
even if he hits you
                           it is okay
as long as he is faithful           a good provider”

It is a stark way of exposing the fact that much of how women learn to be women or learn what is acceptable, comes from their mothers. Mothers can be culpable and it’s hard to forgive. We need more collective wisdom. And it’s coming—maybe it’s the one good thing the Internet has done.

Kirton focuses on the shared experiences of women. Of course, no one experience to any is universal, but her poetry is perfectly timed with today’s cultural climate. Women are speaking out—loudly, roughly and unapologetically on many of the themes in Kirton’s poems, which serve to reinforce a collective feeling. Her poems have appeared as silence and marginalization is being attacked.

I read this before I read Sandra’s Perron’s Out Standing in the Field. Perron’s book angered me (which I’ll talk about in a post in a few days). I need to be clear, not because of what Perron wrote, but because of what she had to go through. If Kirton’s book is a salve of shared experiences, Perron’s is the salt in the wound. I read them backwards. Read Perron’s, then Kirton’s. And then read Birds Art Life.

Jonina Kirton was at Event 76 (A Celebration of Talonbooks) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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