Prof. Priscila Uppal edits new anthology of poetry from around the world

York English Professor Priscila Uppal has edited what’s believed to be the first anthology of its kind in Canada, The Exile Book of Poetry in Translation: 20 Canadian Poets Take on the World. It’s an anthology of 20 Canadian poets who have translated the works of 20 poets from around the world.

The launch for The Exile Book of Poetry in Translation: 20 Canadian Poets Take on the World takes place Wednesday, April 22 at the Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Ave., Toronto. The doors open at 7pm; the event starts at 7:30pm. There will also be a launch for a new novel by Gale Zoë Garnett at the same time.

There will be readings from the anthology by Uppal: A. F. Moritz, who was shortlisted for the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize for The Sentinel; Ken Babstock; York English Professor Rishma Dunlop, coordinator of York’s Creative Writing Program; Andréa Jarmai; Christopher Doda (BA Hons. ’97), records manager in York’s Information & Privacy Office; Goran Simic; Paul Vermeersch; and retired York English Professor Barry Callaghan. York alumni Darren Wershler (PhD ’05) and Christian Bok (PhD ’98) are also in the anthology.

“The anthology was born out of the idea that translation is an underappreciated and under-practised art in Canada and that Canadian poets have been reluctant to engage in translation work in the past as well as the hope that this might stimulate some more in the future,” says Doda, author of the collections of poetry Among Ruins (2001) and Aesthetics Lesson (2007). He is also an editor at Exile: The Literary Quarterly.

“Poets have donated their time, talents and expertise to be part of this ground-breaking Canadian anthology,” says Uppal. She contacted several Canadian poets already known for translation, including Erin Moure, Jarmai and Steven Heighton, to participate, but also wanted to encourage poets to try translating for the first time. All the original poems appear alongside the translations.

“Everyone who participated felt the process of translation was a joy. I know several poets who are continuing to translate their chosen poets, so this might result in full-length poetry collections honouring the work of other poets as well.”

Left: Priscila Uppal

The translated poets cover four continents, 15 languages and range from the classical world to the contemporary. “The poetic styles, approaches and sensibilities are also diverse. I believe there is something here for everyone,” says Uppal. Each Canadian poet has translated about six poems from another poet.

“Also, each selection is prefaced by a short introduction by the translating poet about the choice of poet and the act of translation itself – the challenges, the surprises, the active work of it – so this anthology gives readers a real insider view of the poetic process and would be a great teaching tool in any course where translation is discussed, or where translation exercises are produced.”

In addition to editing the anthology, Uppal (BA Hons. ’97, PhD ’04) also wrote the introduction and translated works by 19th-century Brazilian poet, Joao de Cruz e Sousa. A poet and a novelist, Uppal was shortlisted for the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize for her collection of poems Ontological Necessities (2006). She is the author of several poetry collections, including How to Draw Blood From a Stone (1998), Confessions of a Fertility Expert (1999), Pretending to Die (2001), Live Coverage (2003) and the novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (2002) and this year’s To Whom it May Concern (see YFile, Jan. 13).

Uppal, Dunlop and Doda will join Montreal poets Oana Avisilichoaei and Geoffrey Cook for the anthology’s launch in Montreal at 7pm on Wednesday, April 29 at the Green Room/Salon Vert, 5386 blvd. Saint-Laurent, Montreal.