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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Handwriting: Poems

Michael Ondaatje

McClelland Stewart (1998)

Previously I have read all of Ondaatje’s novels, in addition to his memoir. I enjoyed most of his work, especially Coming Through Slaughter, The English Patient, and Divisadero. So, when my girlfriend gave me this First Canadian Edition of Handwriting, I felt it was appropriate to dive into his poems.

For the most part, I found this collection difficult to read and understand. To fully appreciate this master craftsman’s poetry, my reading skills left something to be desired. However, with that said, I got into these poems, exploring certain thoughts that spoke to me somewhat beyond the words written on the page . I found a few jewels in particular.

From the 1st Poem:

“A libertine was one who made love before nightfall or without darkening the room.”

From “To Anuradhapura”:

“A dance of tall men

With the movement of prehistoric birds

In practice before they alight.”

From “Nine Sentiments”, the following two:

VIII. “Her fearless heart

Light as a barn owl

Against him all night”

X. “Love arrives and dies in all disguises”

As you can see, Handwriting touched me, but as an entire book of poems, my reading experience was incomplete. Perhaps in the future, if my skills as a reader of poetry improve, I will re-read these poems and achieve a fuller reading experience, not unlike the ones I have experienced through this talented writer’s novels.