Canada’s Priscila Uppal (1974-2018) gained an international reputation for her boldly provocative poetry in just a dozen years, following the publication of her first collection, How to Draw Blood from a Stone, at the age of 23. Noted for their startling imagery, unforgettable characters and visionary lines, her poems are exact and penetrating, yet surreal and deeply moving. Drawing from the scientific to the literary, the medical to the historical, Uppal was as concerned about the inheritance of the past as she was about the tragedies of the present, making her both a witness of the terrors and inconsistencies of the past and a messenger of an incomprehensible future.
Successful Tragedies includes work from six books published in Canada, including Ontological Necessities, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007, and her latest collection, Traumatology. In these poems she meditates over spilt milk with Freud, has sex with Christopher Columbus, issues warnings to gynaecologists, sets up shelters for virgins from Greek myths and organises a protest on Abraham’s lawn, and much more… Readers experiencing Uppal for the first time will enter a turbulent but vital landscape, discovering a poet dedicated to uncovering the motivations behind our cruelties and our compassions and determined to explore the absurdity of the world.
'Audacious, irreverent, funny and, at the same time, deeply serious, Priscila Uppal’s poems explore our notions of identity and various other conventions we live by striving to see through the lies. The ever-present horrors of our age; the injustice, the violence, the abuse and slaughter of the innocent, are almost always present. Uppal is a political poet who sounds like no other political poet, someone bound to get in trouble in every political system in the world. Her subject matter tends to be dark, but her telling of it is exhilarating. Every poem in her book comes as a surprise, and that includes the free translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer which in her version deals with the Iraq war and the fate of people displaced by such calamities. Uppal has done the rare and difficult thing: she has brought a brand new voice to poetry' - John Burnside, Charles Simic & Karen Solie, Griffin Prize judges
'Canada’s coolest poet – her subject-matter is dark and dangerous, but Uppal exudes wit and positive energy' – Chris Moss, Time Out
'Bloodaxe Books…appears to have struck gold with the Canadian Priscila Uppal… a fresh voice with an upfront gender imperative powering her poems. She is frank about the female body, extremely honest about sex, and her talk of mortality is never mordant but frequently laugh-out-loud funny… her poems are character-driven dramas with surprising twists and phrasing whether it is the high jinks of a subject like reincarnation or the ribald and awkwardly erotic' – Fred D’Aguiar, Poetry London
'A powerful memoir of a life spend testing and questioning herself, her family, and the world around her… Uppal manages to mix a self-deprecating sense of humour with a genuinely powerful and tragic voice… shows off her academic prowess where she takes classic literary works and myths as central topics… Uppal is an adventurous poet, daring and willing to expose whatever personal truths she finds on her journeys. Surviving this many successful tragedies has left Uppal battle-weary, but with an honest, fearless voice that’s both penetrating and moving. 4 out of 5 stars' – John Challis, Hand + Star
Priscila Uppal reads from Successful Tragedies
Canada's Priscila Uppal she reads from Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), the first UK edition of her poetry, as well as talking about her work, surrealism and Canadian poetry. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed her in Newcastle upon Tyne in April 2013. Here she reads five poems from the book: 'If Abraham', 'Sex with Columbus', 'Sorry, I Forgot to Clean Up After Myself', 'The Old Debate of Don Quixote vs. Sancho Panza' and 'My Mother Is One Crazy Bitch'.
Priscila Uppal: Griffin Prize video
Priscila Uppal's collection Ontological Necessities, published in Canada in 2007, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. Charles Simic introduces her, and then she reads her poem 'Sorry, I Forgot to Clean Up After Myself', which is included in her Bloodaxe Selected, Successful Tragedies.