Poet of the Week: Michael Ondaatje


I went to a bookstore and a library to get a poetry book or two…and came home with seven book by various authors with another two on hold…

I believe my (poetic) eyes may prove to be bigger than my stomach but I had such fun perusing, I just wanted them all.  Even with a variety of authors, I still couldn’t resist the pull of Michael Ondaatje.  I am currently reading a collection of his from 1998: Handwriting.

I must start with a confession.  Most of the time, I have no clue what a poems is really about and Ondaatje makes tons of references that I for sure know nothing about.  But I do know that Ondaatje’s lyric style and fanciful images delight my imagination.  Even if I haven’t the slightest about what a poem of his is “technically” referring to, I will still often find at least a line or an image that will capture me.

For example, he ends the poem The Brother Thief with the lines “Dark peace,/like a cave of water”.  My breath caught a bit when I read them.  I’m okay with not knowing why.  The lines just spoke to me.

Another poem in the collection, To Anuradhapura, has a description of straw figures and men on stilts that I could “see” so clearly I had to skip nap and draw them.  That’s the image above-a crazy, quick sketch because his words put a fun image in my head.

He also has such an eye for detail in the ordinary and that attention somehow transforms items into extraordinary.  For example, in The Nine Sentiments: ii Ondaatje refers to “A shoe left/on the caddie tree terrace”.  On its own, the shoe seems to mean nothing but in the context of the rest of this poem, that shoe holds significance and encourages me to see beauty in everyday items.

So for this week I am enjoying a tried and true favourite poet of mine.  Not sure yet where next week’s poetic explorations will take me…

This entry was posted in Adult Books, The Creative Life Project, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Poet of the Week: Michael Ondaatje

  1. C.Lem {www.creativeclementine.com} says:

    I love Ondaatje and actually chose to go to York because he was on the faculty. I was young enough not to understand what an Adjunct faculty position was, and it didn’t take long to realize I wouldn’t be taught by him! The Collective Works of Billy the Kid was an absolute life changer for me.

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