Nisga’a Writer and Poet Jordan Abel Wins the Griffin Poetry Prize for his Poem “Injun”

(Photo by: Hannah James)

Jordan Abel’s Griffin Poetry Prize win is for ‘everyone that fights against appropriation’

If you can listen to Jordan Abel reading from his poem Injun without tears filling your eyes at Garn we would be surprised. Abel is a Nisga’a writer and poet from British Columbia. His latest collection is about a word that is very hurtful to Indigenous communities: “Injun,” the pejorative shorthand term for “Indian.” 

Interview with Jordan Abel

When read by Abel the poem is surprisingly beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is about appropriation — the ascription of people to pejorative language. The one we all know begins with ‘n’ but there are multitudes of them. These words live and breath in books that have been written, and the stories in which they are contained escape from the pages and meet us in the people who speak them in urban coastal cities and the heartland of the country in hypertensive prose that everyone knows.

Abel uses poetry in “Injun” to examine how the word has been used. He searched for the word in early western novels available through public domain. Then, he copied paragraphs with the word into one big file and rearranged them into one long poem – a protest to the word used to defame him and the Nisga’a people.

At Garn we congratulate Jordan Abel for his magnificent poem and for receiving the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.

More from Jordan Abel – Evergreen Art Lecture Series: Jordan Abel

Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a writer from BC. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD at Simon Fraser University where his research concentrates on the intersection between Digital Humanities and Indigenous Literary Studies. Abel’s creative work has recently been anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope), The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation (Arbiter Ring), and The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayword). Abel is the author of Injun, Un/inhabited, and The Place of Scraps.

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