The Place of Scraps Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889227880
Pages: 288
Pub. Date: September 15 2013
Dimensions: 9" x 6.75" x 0.75"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Poetry / POE011000

  • POETRY / Canadian

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The Place of Scraps

By Jordan Abel

George Ryga Award for Social Award: Jordan Abel, The Place of Scraps (Finalist)
BC Book Prize, Poetry: Jordan Abel, The Place of Scraps (Winner)

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.

Winner 2014 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

Short-listed 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award

“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.”
– Carolyn Smart

“English litters the sky, its typed letters eventually demolished into illegible insects that flit above 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

"Abel subverts the museological gaze that steals, deadens, and imprisons totem poles, thereby disappearing the Indigenous peoples who consider totem poles an integral part of their knowledge systems and cultures"—Lindsay Nixon, All Lit Up

“This is art of the concept, used to unmake language so that language may live.” – Wayde Compton

“… astonishingly inventive […] Abel’s writing constantly dazzles and rewards with its linguistic playfulness and conceptual sophistication.” – Adam Dickinson

“With sustained attention, serious criticism, and generous respect, Jordan Abel has latched onto the extraordinary luck of lack.” – Craig Dworkin

“an anthropology of anthropology[,] done as only a[n Aboriginal/Indigenous] poet could do.” – Ray Hsu