Introducing: Jordan Abel

Say hello to the authors of the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest! Each week in August - October, we'll be introducing you to three of our Festival authors with a blog post filled with interesting facts about the author and their upcoming book. Read all about them, buy their book and then come see them at the Festival in the fall. Enjoy!

Jordan Abel
British Columbia, Event 53 "Pure Poetry"

Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a writer who lives in Vancouver. He holds a BA from the University of Alberta and an MFA from the University of British Columbia. His debut poetry collection, The Place of Scraps, was awarded the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Abel is an editor for Poetry Is Dead magazine and the former poetry editor for PRISM international. His new poetry collection is Un/inhabited. His website is www.jordanabel.ca and you can find him on Twitter as @Jordoisdead

His advice for poets: “The best advice I could give any poet is that almost everything is (or can be) poetry. The field is wide open. Poetry can be whatever you want it to be. The possibilities are endless. In other words, don’t get caught up trying to stay within the boundaries, because there are no boundaries. Try things out. Get outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Subvert expectations. Have fun. As Kenneth Goldsmith once said, 'Take as many risks as you can because poets have nothing to gain by playing it safe and we have nothing to lose by taking risks.'” Source

On creating Un/inhabited: To write the poems in his second collection, Abel drew from 91 western novels (totaling more than 10,000 pages of source text). By searching for specific words or phrases pertaining to land use, ownership and property with these novels, Abel would then extract sentences where these words were used and compile them together in what later became his individual poems. “The result of this kind of curation,” he says, “is that the context surrounding the word is suddenly visible. How is this word deployed? What surrounds it? What is left over once that word is removed?” Read on.

Unsettling the poetic form: In an episode of the podcast Can’t Lit, Abel talks about the obvious difficulties and rewards of reading the poems in Un/inhabited. Because the poems are visual and non-linear, Abel admits they can be more than a bit daunting for readers who are used to more ‘traditional’ forms of poetry, with few readers being able to sit down and read the book cover to cover without purposely skim reading parts. However, there’s much to be gained from Abel’s poems, as hosts Dina and Daniel discover. Listen here. 

Learning from Vancouver’s best: Abel thinks that his work would “not be the same,” were he to live in another city. He credits writers like Daniel Zomparelli, Ray Hsu, Bert Almon and Melissa Jacques for making his poetry what it is today by offering essential feedback and recommending inspiring books. Now, he helps to foster the Vancouver writing community as an instructor at several creative writing programs in the city. Read on.

Place of Scraps: Abel’s first collection of poetry, Place of Scraps, used a similar technique as Un/inhabited, drawing sentences from Marius C. Barbeau’s book Totem Poles and was called, “a surprising and necessary book of poetry” and “humbly unstoppable” by poet Rita Wong. Listen and watch Abel perform poetry from Place of Scraps here