Books·Canadian

Injun

Nisga'a poet Jordan Abel's poetry collection about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Jordan Abel

Award-winning Nisga'a poet Jordan Abel's third collection, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950 — the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America — Injun then uses erasure, pastiche and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre.

After compiling the online text of 91 of these now public-domain novels into one gargantuan document, Abel used his word processor's "Find" function to search for the word "injun." The 509 results were used as a study in context: How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What was left over once that word was removed? Abel then cut up the sentences into clusters of three to five words and rearranged them into the long poem that is Injun. The book contains the poem as well as peripheral material that will help the reader to replicate, intuitively, some of the conceptual processes that went into composing the poem.

Though it has been phased out of use in our "post-racial" society, the word "injun" is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the "Indian" in the source novels, the western genre as a whole, and the Western canon." (From Talonbooks)

Injun won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.

From the book

a)
he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean
dumb beasts who could cut fire
out of the whitest sand
he played english across the trail
where girls turned plum wild
garlic and strained words
through the window of night
he spoke through numb lips and
breathed frontier


From Injun by Jordan Abel ©2016. Published by Talonbooks.

Author interviews

Other books by Jordan Abel