Priscila Uppal, Canadian poet, dead at 43

Uppal was the author of 10 books of poetry, including the Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Ontological Necessities
Uppal is the author of 10 books of poetry. (priscilauppal.ca)

Priscila Uppal, Canadian poet, memoirist and playwright, has died at the age of 43 on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. 

Born in Ottawa in 1974, Uppal published 10 books of poetry including Sabotage — an exploration of modern-day acts of destruction — and the Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Ontological Necessitiesa collection of poems on the nature of human relationships.

"The power of poetry is difficult to measure or quantify and yet you know its power when you witness its effects," said Uppal to CBC Books during National Poetry Month.

"Poetry first triggers something inside of you, then expands to fill your whole being, and then facilitates a palpable release of emotion."

In 2013, Uppal published the remarkable memoir Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother, which chronicled her emotional reunion with her mother Theresa, who had abandoned her young children and disabled husband. The book was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction and Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

When Uppal was diagnosed with a rare aggressive form of cancer called synovial sarcoma, she documented her experience through poetry and essay. In 2015, she spoke to Matt Galloway on CBC Toronto's Metro Morning about her writing and recited some of her work.

"I think a very undervalued and powerful tool is the imagination. When you're facing something like [cancer], many people like me feel disconnected and alienated from themselves — from their bodies, from their coworkers, from their loved ones, from the world," said Uppal on Metro Morning.

"The imagination is actually a way to repair and reconnect and heal those connections to yourself and other people."

Matt Galloway spoke with Priscila Uppal about her experiences with cancer, and sharing some of the poems she has written about that experience. 8:08

Uppal's also edited anthologies like Best Canadian Poetry (2011) and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets. Her work has been translated into several languages, including Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Korean and Latvian. 

In addition to writing, Uppal was a professor of humanities and English at York University and served as a member of the Toronto Arts Council's board of directors.


CORRECTION: This story originally stated that Priscila Uppal had died at the age of 44. However, her agency Westwood Creative Artists confirms she was 43.

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