Episode 20: Joshua Whitehead Interviews Jordan Abel
Apr 19, 2021
In this interview, Joshua Whitehead will be talking to Jordan Abel about timely and crucial topics. They raise questions and offer alternative ways of thinking about issues such as the strict and limiting nature of genre, the relationship between different Indigenous authors and CanLit and the inability of English language and western epistemology to fully grasp and reflect the experiences of the diverse Indigenous Peoples. They also reflect on their experiences of taking grad and undergrad courses. Within this context, Abel and Whitehead suggest different approaches to transform and create spaces in creative writing courses and academia in general.
Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a writer from Vancouver. He is the author of The Place of Scraps (winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize), Un/inhabited, and Injun (winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize). Abel’s latest project NISHGA (forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart in 2021) is a deeply personal and autobiographical book that attempts to address the complications of contemporary Indigenous existence and the often invisible intergenerational impact of residential schools. Abel’s work has recently been anthologized in The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayward), The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry (Anstruther), Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope), Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing Within the Anthropocene (Wesleyan), and The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation (ARP). Abel’s work has been published in numerous journals and magazines—including Canadian Literature, The Capilano Review, and Poetry Is Dead—and his visual poetry has been included in exhibitions at the Polygon Gallery, UNITT/PITT Gallery, and the Oslo Pilot Project Room in Oslo, Norway. Abel recently completed a PhD at Simon Fraser University, and is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta where he teaches Indigenous Literatures and Creative Writing.
Joshua Whitehead (he/him) is a Two-Spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate, lecturer, and Killam scholar at the University of Calgary where he studies Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality. His dissertation, tentatively titled “Feral Fatalisms,” is a hybrid narrative of theory, essay, and non-fiction that interrogates the role of “ferality” inherent within Indigenous ways of being (with a strong focus on nêhiyawewin). He is the author of full-metal indigiqueer (Talonbooks 2017) which was shortlisted for the inaugural Indigenous Voices Award and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. He is also the author of Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal Pulp Press 2018) which was long listed for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, and won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction and the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction. Whitehead is currently working on a third manuscript titled, Making Love with the Land to be published with Knopf Canada, which explores the intersections of Indigeneity, queerness, and, most prominently, mental health through a nêhiyaw lens. Most recently, he’s the editor of Love After the End: Two-Spirit Utopias and Dystopias (2019).
04:10 – Nickita Longman
04:25 – Jonny Appleseed
05:56 – Injun
05:59 – NISHGA
06:20 – The discussion of Genre and Western movies
07:20 – WandaVision
09:20 – How does Jordan Abel classify his works within the terms of genre?
12:28 – Indigenous authors and CanLit
14:53 – English vs Cree languages when writing literature
16:25 – Jordan Abel, his connection to Nisga’a epistemologies and roadblocks
20:25 – Writing as medicinal and a form of therapy
22:36 – Western and Speculative Fiction genres
25:04 – The active role of the artist in dismantling “Canadianized” and canonized texts and genres.
28:00 – full-metal indigiqueer
28:28 – #bringbackyesteryear
30:20 – Audre Lorde
30:37 – Jordan Abel the writer and the academic
36:08 – The flaws of institutional and canonical creative writing classes while writing The Place of Scraps
37:36 – How to create space in a creative writing classroom.
41:18 – What does Jordan Abel’s ideal classroom look like?
44:20 – Jordan Abel’s commentary on the ways non-Indigenous peoples read Indigenous texts
47:35 – Billy-Ray Belcourt
47:48 – What brings Jordan Abel joy!?
TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Paul Meunier, Joshua Whitehead, Mahmoud Ababneh, Aruna Srivastava, Marc Lynch, Marj Rugunda. and Ryan Stearne.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.