The Surgeon's Brain
I can be of use beyond myself. There is no question
of my right to board a ship, or take a room.
It is as though I were a ghost and I have now been given form.
Dr James Barry was many things. He was a pistol-toting dueller, an irascible grudge-holder, a vegetarian, an obsessive cleaner – and a brilliant, humane military surgeon who served throughout the British empire, travelled the world with a small menagerie of animals, and advocated for public health reform. Barry was also a transgender man living in the Victorian era, a time when the term ‘transgender’ was unknown in Western thought.
From the author of New Transgender Blockbusters comes a breathtaking, multilayered work that meditates on the life of Dr James Barry. The poems of The Surgeon’s Brain imagine Barry’s inner worlds and the historical and social pressures that he resisted. As this mesmerising story unfolds and begins to fragment, it speaks to both our past and future ghosts.
‘Upperton has a way of linking the urgency of poetry to the urgency of being human.’ —Piet Nieuwland, Landfall
Oscar Upperton’s first poetry collection was New Transgender Blockbusters (VUP, 2020). In 2019 he was awarded the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary. His work has been featured in Sport, The Spinoff, Metro and Best New Zealand Poems.
Paperback, 210 x 148mm, 96 pages
Cover painting: Henrietta Harris