Injun, by Jordan Abel (Talonbooks 2016), won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize for which he received $65,000. His follow-up to his Un/inhabited is comprised of 'found text' from western novels of the pulp fiction genre published between 1840 and 1950. By gathering all sentences with the word "injun" embedded, retrieved using the 'Find' function, Abel seeks to destabilize the colonial concept of the "Indian" as it was allowed to grow in the 'western' world of the so-called western world.

Nisga'a writer Jordan Abel holds a BA from the University of Alberta and an MFA from the University of British Columbia. He has been an editor for Poetry is Dead magazine and PRISM international. While completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University, his studies focused on "digital humanities" and indigenous poetics.

Jordan Abel received the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2014 for The Place of Scraps, in which he revisits and re-examines the role of ethnographer Marius Barbeau. According to publicity materials: "The Place of Scraps revolves around Marius Barbeau, an early-twentieth-century ethnographer, who studied many of the First Nations cultures in the Pacific Northwest, including Jordan Abel's ancestral Nisga'a Nation. Barbeau, in keeping with the popular thinking of the time, believed First Nations cultures were about to disappear completely, and that it was up to him to preserve what was left of these dying cultures while he could. Unfortunately, his methods of preserving First Nations cultures included purchasing totem poles and potlatch items from struggling communities in order to sell them to museums. While Barbeau strove to protect First Nations cultures from vanishing, he ended up playing an active role in dismantling the very same cultures he tried to save."

Jordan's second poetry project, Un/inhabited (Co-published by Project Space Press and Talonbooks 2014) investigates public domain to create an analysis of the interconnections between language and land. Abel constructed the book's source text by compiling 91 complete western novels found on the website Project Gutenberg, an online archive of public domain works. Using his word processor's Ctrl-F function, he then searched the document in its totality for words that relate to the political and social aspects of land, territory and ownership. Each search query represents a study in context (How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What is left over once that word is removed?) that accumulates toward a representation of the public domain as a discoverable and inhabitable body of land. This poetry collection also includes a text by independent curator Kathleen Ritter - the first piece of scholarship on Abel's work.
Both of Jordan Abel's grandparents attended the same residential school in Chilliwack. As an inter-generational survivor of residential school, he has written and assembled Nishga (M&S 2020) to present how colonial violence from the Coqualeetza Indian Residential School impacted his grandparents' generation, as well as father's generation, and ultimately his own. It's his first book from a large Ontario publisher. The spelling of Nisga'a as Nishga is not a typo.


The Place of Scraps (Talon 2013) $19.95 978-0-88922-788-0
Un/inhabited (Co-published Project Space Press and Talonbooks 2015)
Injun (Talonbooks 2016) $16.95 978-0-88922-977-8
Nishga (McClelland & Stewart 2020) $32.95 978-0-7710-0790-3

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2020]