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Handwriting: Poems Paperback – March 14, 2000
The Amazon Book Review
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The brush of sandalwood along a collarboneOndaatje's final poem, "Last Ink," explains why the need to preserve human experience through art is as instinctive as the desire to die in a lover's arms. Dealing with large-scale emotions and scenes of love and war, these are poems that strike to the heart. --Martha Silano, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Green dark silk
A shoe left
on the cadju tree terrace
these nights when "pools are
reduced by constant plungings"
Meanwhile a man's burning heart
his palate completely dry
on the Galapitigala Road
thinking there is water in that forest
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
However, as I persevered with the poetry I was slowly rewarded. It was like waking up from a dream, those first minutes in the morning when you are neither awake nor asleep, but living in a place that is somehow between the two worlds. The strenght of Ondaatje's language is such that it draws you in to the imagery and into the location he is creating and remembering. The result is not unlike a half-forgotten dream. You can almost remember that buried Buddha.
This is powerful poetry written by a sure hand. You will undoubtably benefit if you have a background knowledged of the culture and its physical and spiritual geography. Without this background it is difficult but ultimately rewarding reading.
I don't like much contemporary poetry because I find it's more about provoking than evoking, more about shock value than beauty. I LOVED this volume. It is full of slow images and scents, sensual but not explicit. Ondaatje weaves Sanskrit and Tamil words and forms into the poems in such a way that you don't even care that you don't know exactly what he's talking about. "The brush of sandalwood along the collarbone/ Green dark silk/ A shoe left on the cadju tree terrace.." "The pepper vine shaken and shaken/like someone in love/Leaf patterns/saffron and panic seed/on the lower pillows/where their breath met..." What's a cadju tree? What's a panic seed? I don't know. I don't care- I see them anyway and am captured by the image, and this is what good poetry should do. I can't wait to read the next book.
In the third and most anecdotally direct, least oblique sequence the image of the dug up Buddha reappears transformed:
"In the sunless forest/of Ritagala...nine soldiers on leave/strip uniforms off/and dig a well.../In the sunless forest/crouched by a forest well/pulling what was lost out of the depth." And immediately before that anecdote, in one of the achingly simple lyrics that litter this thatch of stories and semi-parables, Ondaatje tells of "the last Sinhala word" which he lost, "the word for water" and the wet nurse "a lost almost-mother in those years/of thirsty love" who he has no photograph of, has not seen since age eleven, whose grave he can find no trace of. He now wonders who abandoned who.
Now and then the concerns of a writer surface and you realise these are the meditations of a writer returning to buried wounds and springs to be renewed: the poets who "slept, famous, in palace courtyards/then hid within forests when they were hunted/..and were killed and made more famous.Read more ›
'Handwriting' contains a collection of well-crafted poems reminding us that Ondaatje is undoubtedly among one of the best living poets today.
Most of the poems of this excellent anthology are set in Sri Lanka. Some images and references crafted by Ondaatje come from Sri Lanka where he has ancestral roots. Similar to his classic novel, 'Anil's Ghost' Ondaatje demonstrates his intimate knowledge of the history, art, friends and recent events of Sri Lanka in this collection of poems.
For me, there is also a very personal appeal to the poems in this collection. As a person who grew up in Sri Lanka, I am familiar with places and historical references he brings into his works in 'Handwriting'. However, anyone without any knowledge of Sri Lanka could also understand and appreciate Ondaatje's poems as they have a universal appeal despite the fact he leaves the reader with place or location names such as Galapitigala Road, Mahaweli and Kataragama etc. Even when Ondaatje writes on specific locations or on historical facts he writes about life, love, war and death which has a universal appeal to any reader whether they have an understanding of locations, place names or historical nuances appearing here. Even if you don't have a personal knowledge of Sri Lanka's history or its culture you can still appreciate Ondaatje's poems.
Ondaatje is indeed very different to ancient poets of Sri Lanka who "wrote ...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Michael Ondaaatje walks with you into his Sri Lanka where the richness there inspires the lush lingering prose that issues from his pen. Read morePublished on October 2, 2007 by Savvy-Suz
I might be impressed by this book if I understood a single thing he wrote. Most of it is deliberately obscure and private with lots of 12 syllable Sri Lankan place names thrown in... Read morePublished on March 6, 2004
I could recommend this slim volume as a nearly perfect Valentine's Day gift based almost on the attractive appearance and reasonable price, alone. Read morePublished on January 28, 2003 by Andrew MacArthur
Here in Canada the name Michael Ondaatje elicits homage, and his readers are a dedicated, faithful lot. Read morePublished on November 30, 2002 by Cipriano
Michael Ondaatje is a major poet. There are no two words about it. He brings his poetic vision and unique signature of lyricism again to words with his latest collection of... Read morePublished on July 16, 2000 by Sunil Govinnage
A quantum leap in modern poetry, M. Ondaatje's new book ofpoems elevates him into the ranks of the truly original. Read morePublished on September 15, 1999