Nisga’a writer Jordan Abel speaks about poetry as intervention in colonial discourse

On Feb. 13, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course presented Nisga’a writer Jordan Abel reading from his poetry book Injun. York teaching assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Nisga’a writer Jordan Abel visited York University as part of the Canadian Writers in Person Series, to discuss and perform selections from his latest collection of poetry, Injun. He delivered his reading on Feb.13.

Using the cut-up method, Abel compiled Injun out of 91 Western novels available online in the public domain. With his word processor’s “find” function, he searched for the word “Injun” in these texts, and then cut up and reassembled passages from the original texts into a long poem.

His performance at York involved his “taking audio files and pulling them apart” by remixing and distorting the sounds, to parallel the practices that went into the making of the book. In his audio performance of the poem, Abel re-created in a different medium those “moments of illegibility or inaudibility” that readers experience when reading his book.

“I’m interested in Westerns because of the misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in them… I was interested in finding out what makes up the contours of racism, what racism is, and how I can disrupt it,” said Abel.

This long poem and the additional notes and materials included in the volume represent an intervention in the colonial violence evident at the level of language.

Jordan Abel

Jordan Abel

“My writing is deeply impacted by the trajectory of colonial violence… There is a disruption of language and knowledge that happened in my family because of that trajectory of colonial violence,” said Abel, who identifies as an intergenerational survivor of residential schools, and his work reflects on this personal and national history.

Canadian poet Ken Babstock writes about this collection of poetry: “Jordan Abel has opened a space of disruption, lament, resistance, and inquiry—a terrible, inverted singing that can undermine assumption, exposing ‘soft’ ideology. Injun isn’t a record of past wrongs, but a present tense intervention. A necessary, confrontational beauty. The country needs Injun right up in its face.”

The Canadian Writers in Person series readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at or Professor Gail Vanstone at All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.

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