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.