Award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s second collection of poetry, Un/inhabited, 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 in their entirety ninety-one western novels found on the website Project Gutenberg, an online archive of works whose copyright has expired. Using his word processor’s Ctrl-F function, he searched the compilation 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?) accumulating toward a representation of the public domain as a discoverable and inhabitable body of land.
Featuring a text by independent curator Kathleen Ritter – the first piece 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 in the empty space when we see nothing.
One of the best 75 books of 2015 (CBC Books)
One of 15 best CanLit covers of 2015 (CBC Books)
“Throughout Un/inhabited Abel undoes the cognitive mapping provided by genres like the Western pulp novel. As the incomplete index, blank spaces, and faded word-carvings of Un/inhabited illustrate, if the poet provides us with a map to navigate this new territory, it is a self-consciously incomplete one.” — Christina Turner in Canadian Literature