Jordan Abel’s Reading Life: 40 Pounds of Poetry

Welcome to our new series, Reading Life, in which we’ll be asking writers and other makers to share insights into their lives as readers—what they read and how much, where they read and why. Some great authors will be telling the TRB about the books they love, the books they can’t do without, and the reading experiences that have changed them.

We’re thrilled to be starting this series with Jordan Abel, a Nisga’a writer from BC. He is the author of Injun, Un/inhabited, and The Place of Scraps, winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

TRB: Your bookshelves are on fire! What do you save?

JA: My copy of Put Out the Fires by Maureen Lee! In the hopes that it is actually about putting out fires. And in the hopes that I could absorb its knowledge quickly enough to put out said fire. Full disclosure: I don’t actually own this book. Yet! But it’s on my list now and I hope it will be a good investment.

TRB: How many pounds of poetry do you read per year?

JA: Well, if a book of poetry roughly weighs a third of a pound. And if I attend approximately 20 book launches per year. And if I buy about half of those launched books. And if I add in another 50 or so from my Ph.D. work. And if I buy about 30 random collections in bookstores. And if I buy maybe 10 or so online. And if I get about 5 blurb requests for upcoming books. Then I would have to say about 40 pounds. 40 pounds of poems per year.

TRB: What well-known classic do you have yet to read? Why do you want to read it? Why have you avoided it?

JA: People keep telling me that I should read Moby Dick. Sometimes they provide pretty compelling reasons. Sometimes they don’t. Honestly, I just can’t imagine that I’ll ever come to a point in my life where I’ll say, “Yes. Yes, I would like to read a one-thousand page allegorical novel about the whaling industry.” That being said, I’d be open to skimming the Spark Notes sometime.

TRB: What formats do you read most happily? Paper books, your phone, newsprint, cereal boxes, etc.?

JA: Definitely cereal boxes. And the menu board at Taco Bell! Also, any kind of religious flyer/pamphlet that someone hands to me. Occasionally billboards. But never on purpose.