This is the second edition of award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s second collection of poetry, Un/inhabited, which maps the terrain of the public domain to create a layered investigation of the interconnections between language and land.
Abel constructed the book’s source text by compiling ninety-one complete western novels found on Project Gutenberg, an online archive of public domain works. Using his word processor’s Ctrl+F function, he searched the document in its totality for words that relate to the political and social aspects of land, territory, and ownership. Each search query represents a study in context (How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What is left over once that word is removed?) that accumulates toward a representation of the public domain as a discoverable and inhabitable body of land.
Featuring essays by Project Space founder Tracy Stefanucci and independent curator Kathleen Ritter – the first pieces of scholarship on Abel’s work – Un/inhabited reminds us of the power of language as material and invites us to reflect on what is present when we see nothing.
“He pokes holes into these frontier stories – revealing the sublimated horror in their comic gothic conventions. This isn’t conceptual writing so much as foundational writing. Defoundational. Unsettling. He graphically strip-mines texts – interrupts their ideology, and asks you to fill in – suture – the blanks. Rush into this necessary, (de)literary landscape.”
– Gregory Betts
“At once graphic art, anti-poetry, a trace history of reading, and sociological groundwork, Un/inhabited is something entirely new that defies easy categorization or description. This is art working its hardest edge to build an understanding of how our present and past continue to shape and reshape each other.”
– Shane Rhodes
"…the way in which he hypnotizes his audience is always astounding."
– Navneet Nagra, sadmag
"What is most interesting about Un/inhabited is the ambiguity that complicates the more obvious metaphors linking text with land and reading with resource extraction.” —Canadian Literature
“This is a compelling and difficult text, one whose political resonance is made all the more evident by the ambiguities that pervade it. … Abel mounts a (sometimes wry) challenge to the representation of Indigenous peoples in Westerns, but his poetic practice is also in line with other recent works of experimental poetry … the text which is the source of violence is also the wellspring of resistance, anger, reclamation, and hope. … what is most interesting about Un/inhabited is the ambiguity that complicates the more obvious metaphors linking text with land and reading with resource extraction.” —Canadian Literature
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