Monday, 9 April 2012
Poetry Month 2012: Dr. Priscila Uppal - My Father’s South-Asian Canadian Dictionary
Dr. Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer and York University professor. Among her publications are eight collections of poetry, most recently, Ontological Necessities (2006; shortlisted for the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize), Traumatology (2010), Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, U.K.), and Winter Sport: Poems; the critically-acclaimed novels The Devine Economy of Salvation (2002) and To Whom It May Concern (2009); and the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elergy (2009). Her work has been published internationally and translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Korean and Latvian. She was the first-ever poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic games as well as the Roger’s Cup Tennis Tournament in 2011. Time Out London recently dubbed her “Canada’s coolest poet.”
For more information visit http://priscilauppal.ca/.
My Father’s South-Asian Canadian Dictionary
includes the names of Canadian Prime Ministers and MPPs.
(We are from a government town, a government attitude on ice.)
I know what it means to lodge a complaint, submit a form,
participate in the census, just as I know that being Canadian
is the greatest pride on earth. My poetry comes out of
my father’s chest, tough and wholehearted, half-paralyzed
but brave. We believe in pronunciation, adjudication, and
all for the nation. We believe in universal health care,
teddy bears, and all-you-can-eat buffets. In my father’s
knuckles are the bare bones of a family he practically invented.
What does it mean to be an Uppal? It means diligence,
excellence. It means humility and finding your own ways
in and out. Before me, it meant business school, medicine,
looking carefully and effectively at all financial options.
It meant buying insurance and thinking about the future,
and marrying into a stable family with moral values.
Institutional language is ours: hypotheses, liabilities,
rent or lease. Yet, hockey too: boarding, hooking,
right wing, five-hole. I know little Punjabi, and we
always eat far more chicken à la king than curry, and
cheer loud for Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, but
my brother and I can both mimic a South-Asian accent
when we say: Mahatma Ghandi, River Ganges, or
You are such a smarty pants. In my father’s eyes, we
are ragamuffins, gallivanting around the neighbourhood,
while others are clowns, or con-men with sweetheart deals.
And when we come home to visit, he says please and
thank you. And when he’s lying scared in hospital beds
we say our dad, a quadriplegic, who knows what it
means to be alive, fellow citizens, more than anyone.
Note - Photo of Priscila Uppal taken by Daniel Ehrenworth