Our Poem of the Week comes from Jordan Abel’s third book of poetry, Injun(Talonbooks) Canadian winner of the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Composed of found texts excerpted from western novels published between 1840 and 1950, Injun displays, through various poetic tools and techniques such as cut-up, pastiche, erasure, and visual poetry, the anti-Indigenous racism permeating Western discourse and literature. Structured around five sections, “Injun,” “Notes,” “Appendix,” “Sources,” and “Process,” Abel subversively re-appropriates academic conventions, diverting their function and troubling their authority.
In this visual poem, found in the “Notes” section of the book, we see a stacked repetition of the word “whitest”—a linguistic technique known as concordance line. Abel’s found lines, when collaged together, unsettle and force the reader to confront whiteness and Indigenous erasure head on.
As Amaranth Borsuk and Sarah Dowling note, “the transformations Abel enacts upon his source texts mirror the violence settlers enact upon Indigenous societies, but his book’s insistent contemporaneity and vitality—indeed, its beauty and lyricism—demonstrate the myriad ways in which Indigenous peoples persist and endure."
We also invite you to also check out Abel’s newly released memoir, NISHGA(McClelland & Stewart) a groundbreaking autobiographical work that collages poetry, art, and archival documents to speak “about intergenerational trauma, Indigenous dispossession, and the afterlife of residential schools.” (Abel, CBC, 2021)