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Handwriting - Michael Ondaatje

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Title
Handwriting
Author
Michael Ondaatje
format
Paperback / softback
Publisher
Jonathan Cape
Language
English
UK Publication Date
20110901

The poems in Handwriting are memories of Sri Lanka: the rituals and traditions, history and geography, the smells and tastes and colours of his first home. Here are sunless forests, cattle-bells, stilt-walkers 'with the movement of prehistoric birds'; a Buddha buried 'so roots/like fingers of a blind monk/spread for two hundred years over his face'; 'saffron and panic seed, lotus flowers, sandalwood; a lover, who lay her fearless heart/light as a barn owl/against him all night'.

Handwriting is an elegy for lost childhood, for a culture and language lost to the turmoil of history, but it is also a glimpse of the source of the writer's delicate, erotic, mysterious imagination. By focussing on writing frankly about beautiful things, Ondaatje takes the poems beyond narrative to these simple, deeply sensual images - given to us in a language that is pared, cursive and exquisite.

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Michael Ondaatje is the author of several novels, as well as a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. Among his many Canadian and international recognitions, his novel The English Patient won the 1992 Man Booker Prize, was adapted into a multi-award winning Oscar movie, and was awarded the Golden Man Booker Prize in 2018; Anil's Ghost won the Giller Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Prix Mdicis; and Warlight was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto.

The way his novels are truly poetic, Ondaatje's thrilling poems often read like exquisite, unwritten Ondaatje novels.
Independent on Sunday

Handwriting explores Sri Lankan history, geography, ceremonies and myths. It is crowded with scintillating images, such as a tightrope-walker caught in a power cut, beautiful colours and textures
New Statesman

Michael Ondaatje defies the normal distinction between poet and novelist. His writing is consistently tuned to a visionary pitch
Graham Swift

Ondaatje's poems are a joy, as all his writing is. The wonderful twists, painful and funny; the utterly individual touch and sumptuous wealth of language; they're all familiar, but as one would expect, they seem to keep getting better, more assured and sometimes more crazy
W. S. Merwin

His poems read with the same whimsical precision and authority one finds in Ondaatje's prose. He is the most sensibly ironic writer I've read in years, and the most generously disposed. Would that all worlds were this deftly attended
Robert Creeley

Type
BOOK
Country of Publication
England
Number of Pages
65

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