Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE PLACE OF SCRAPS - Jordan Abel (Talonbooks) - 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Nominee

For the month of April this blog will be looking at the nominees for the 2014 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, Raymond Souster Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award as recognized by the the League of Canadian Poets.

The Pat Lowther Memorial Award is given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman published in the preceding year, and is in memory of the late Pat Lowther, whose career was cut short by her untimely death in 1975. The award carries a $1,000 prize. It is presented each year at the League’s Annual General Meeting in May or June, with the shortlist announced in April.

The Raymond Souster Award is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member (all levels, dues paid) published in the preceding year. The award honours Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian Poets. The award carries a $1,000 prize. It is presented each year at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in June, with the shortlist announced in April.

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award is given in the memory of Gerald Lampert, an arts administrator who organized authors’ tours and took a particular interest in the work of new writers. The award recognizes the best first book of poetry published by a Canadian in the preceding year. The Award carries a prize of $1,000 and is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets. It is presented each year at the League’s Annual General Meeting in May or June, with the shortlist announced in April.


Today's book of poetry:
The Place of Scraps.  Jordan Abel.  Talonbooks.  Vancouver, B.C. 2013.

The following is a brief description of his own work from Jordan Abel:

My first book is forthcoming from Talonbooks this fall. Here’s brief description:
The Place of Scraps revolves around Marius Barbeau, an early-twentieth-century ethnographer, who studied many of the First Nations cultures in the Pacific Northwest, including Jordan Abel’s ancestral Nisga’a Nation. Barbeau, in keeping with the popular thinking of the time, believed First Nations cultures were about to disappear completely, and that it was up to him to preserve what was left of these dying cultures while he could. Unfortunately, his methods of preserving First Nations cultures included purchasing totem poles and potlatch items from struggling communities in order to sell them to museums. While Barbeau strove to protect First Nations cultures from vanishing, he ended up playing an active role in dismantling the very same cultures he tried to save.
Drawing inspiration from Barbeau’s canonical book Totem Poles, Jordan Abel explores the complicated relationship between First Nations cultures and ethnography. His poems simultaneously illuminate Barbeau’s intentions and navigate the repercussions of the anthropologist’s actions.
Through the use of erasure techniques, Abel carves out new understandings of Barbeau’s writing – each layer reveals a fresh perspective, each word takes on a different connotation, each letter plays a different role, and each punctuation mark rises to the surface in an unexpected way. As Abel writes his way ever deeper into Barbeau’s words, he begins to understand that he is much more connected to Barbeau than he originally suspected.

"With his breakout collection of visual poetry... Abel conjures the near impossible: a heartbreaking history lesson, both personal and public, mixed with lyricism, intelligence, humour, and cold-eyed facts.  This narrative of the misguided, good-hearted Marius Barbeau and what he did with First Nations cultural icons will be a revelation for many.  What Abel takes from language is what gives it form and strength: a more apt use of plunder verse I cannot imagine."
     -Caroline Smart

"English litters the sky, its typed letters eventually demolished into illegible insects that flit above the archival photo-testimony to land/people... A surprising and necessary book of poetry, The Place of Scraps is as humbly unstoppable as the next breath you take in and release back out to the world."
     -Rita Wong

"This is art of the concept, used to unmake language so that language may live."
     -Wade Compton


I was unable to reproduce Jordan Abel's work in the same way as it is presented in The Place of Scraps.  This is a result of my technical shortcomings and general Luddite abilities on my computer.  My apologies to Mr. Abel and to Talonbooks.


Jordan Abel is a First Nations writer who lives in Vancouver.  He holds a BA from the University of Alberta and an MFA from the University of British Columbia.  Abel is an editor for Poetry is Dead magazine and the former poetry editor for PRISM international.  His work has been published in many journals and magazines across Canada, including CV2, Capilano Review, Prairie Fire, dANDelion, Geist, ARC Poetry Magazine, Descant, Broken Pencil, OCW Magazine, filling station, Grain, and Canadian Literature.  In early 2013 above/ground Press published his chapbook Scienta.

Jordan Abel - The Place of Scraps - launch

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