Ontological Necessities

2007 Griffin Poetry Prize nominated book

In Ontological Necessities Priscila Uppal investigates the emotional and philosophical struggle fundamental to notions of being in the 21st century. From poems that explore questions of identity (who is anyone, anyway?) to those that attempt to examine human relationships with the onslaught of horrors depicted daily in the news, this collection uses surrealist and absurdist language in subversive and startling ways to grapple with an increasingly absurd world. Written with the verve of the uninhibited artist but with a clarity of thought and expression more akin to the scientist or scholar, these poems are utterly contemporary and fully aware of the past; a necessary tonic for our times.

(Exile Editions, 2006)

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Praise for Ontological Necessities

“Audacious, irreverant, funny and, at the same time, deeply serious, [the poems] explore our notions of identity and various other conventions we live by striving to see thorugh 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 into trouble in every political system in the world…Uppal has done the rare and difficult thing: she has brought a brand new voice to poetry.”

–Griffin Poetry Prize Jury 2007 (Charles Simis, U.S.; John Burnside, Scotland; Karen Solie, Canada)

“She writers  poems for which she most likely would have been imprisioned, burnt at the stake, or shot in many countries in the world, both in the distant past and today. Luckily for us, here she is.”

–Charles Simic

“A vision that continually overturns the expected…This collection is the work of an intelligent, witty mind. Uppal is one of the few to effectively address the necessities of life in the socio-political morass of the 21st century.”

–John Carroll, Event

“A bold and subversive work…Using a variety of forms and candid, often brutal language, Uppal forces us out of our familiar comfort zones to grapple with topics like genocide, hatred, illiteracy, and death…Uppal not only engages her readers, she shocks them out of complacency.”

–Carolyn Marie Souad, Review: Arts and Literatures of the Americas

“People will (and have) called this a “new-millenium” and “post 9-11″ book, but that does a disservice to its universality…the book is both witty and serious, attacking big questions while concentrating on the small details. This makes for thought-provoking readings and rereadings.”

–K.I. Press, Contemporary Verse 2

“[Ontological Necessities] addresses a seemingly unlimited array of subjects–filial duty, consumerism and national boundaries to name a few–in an equally striking range of voices. Uppal mixes a heady cocktail of art and politics.”

–Donna Bailey Nurse, The Ottawa Citizen

“You should buy and read Ontological Necessities. It possesses a vigour and attitude…I even recommend those poems that I am opposed to philisophically.”

–Alessandro Porco, Books in Canada

“The voice that surfaces through this constant shifting is very candid, colloquial. The word use disarmingly familiar language, mixed with vaguely sing-song rhymes, to create a lulling comfort that Uppal proceeds to expertly destroy…climaxing with a poetic rallying cry that encapsulates the combined passion.”

–Aaron Tucker, Women’s Post

“A kind of surrealist portrait of 21st century life, with an emphasis on absurdity, banality, and consumerism. (Think of them as our society’s ABCs)…Many of the poems bristle with startling imagery and sardonic humour…[The Wanderer is] a remarkable poem…the book’s most powerful work.”

–Barbara Carey, The Toronto Star

“Parents figure repeatedly in the book, revealing a courageous writer reaching for honestay and tenderness at the same time. The jewel of the book is the well-wrought reworking of the Old English poem The Wanderer into The Wanderer: A New Millenium Translation.”

–Meg Walker, The Globe and Mail