Castlegar-area poet Jordan Abel took home the Griffin Poetry Prize Thursday night.
Abel was awarded the prize for Injun, his book of conceptual poetry published by Talonbooks in 2016.
“It feels totally unreal —I was not expecting this at all,” said Abel from the award ceremony in Toronto Thursday night. “It really was a total surprise.”
The Griffin is one of the largest prizes in the world for a first-edition, single collection of poetry written in English. Short-listed authors receive $10,000 and the winner receives $65,000. The judges read 617 books before selecting the short-list nominees. The other Canadian finalists were were Sandra Ridley for Silvija and Hoa Nguyen for Violet Energy Ingots. The award also includes an international category which Alice Oswald won for Falling Awake.
Abel is a Nisga’a writer who is working on completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University. He is currently living in Robson with his wife Chelsea Novak, a journalist with the Castlegar News and the Rossland News.
Abel thanked his wife and his publisher in his acceptance speech and emphasized the problems associated with cultural appropriation.
“As a Nisga’a who mostly writes about the difficult issues of racism, colonial appropriation, and intergenerational trauma, I honestly never thought I would get here,” said Abel.
“I just want to say that I think this is a win for all the people who have fought and continue to fight against appropriation, and for those who continue to fight and resist the architectures of colonialism that we continue to find ourselves in,” added Abel.
Abel also broke out of the traditional mold for poetry readings at the poetry event held Wednesday night to showcase the Griffin Prize short-listed authors. He impressed the audience of more than 1,000 people with his sound poetry performance instead of a traditional reading.