Handwriting: Poems

Overview

"Tumultuous, vibrant, tragic and over too soon." —Newsday

Handwriting is Michael Ondaatje's first new book of poetry since The Cinnamon Peeler. The exquisite poems collected here draw on history, mythology, landscape, and personal memories to weave a rich tapestry of images that reveal the longing for—and expose the anguish over—lost loves, homes, and language, as the poet contemplates scents and gestures and evokes a time when "handwriting ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (1) from $179.85   
  • Used (1) from $179.85   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$179.85
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(23228)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Good
Our feedback rating says it all: Five star service and fast delivery! We have shipped four million items to happy customers, and have one MILLION unique items ready to ship today!

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Handwriting

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.

Overview

"Tumultuous, vibrant, tragic and over too soon." —Newsday

Handwriting is Michael Ondaatje's first new book of poetry since The Cinnamon Peeler. The exquisite poems collected here draw on history, mythology, landscape, and personal memories to weave a rich tapestry of images that reveal the longing for—and expose the anguish over—lost loves, homes, and language, as the poet contemplates scents and gestures and evokes a time when "handwriting occurred on waves, / on leaves, the scripts of smoke" and remembers a woman's "laughter with its / intake of breath. Uhh huh."

Crafted with lyrical delicacy and seductive power, Handwriting reminds us of Michael Ondaatje's stature as one of the finest poets writing today.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Though perhaps best known for works of fiction like The English Patient and In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje began his literary career as a poet, and his prose shares the imagistic quality and startling language of his verse. In his latest volume of poetry, Handwriting, Ondaatje returns to Sri Lanka, the place where he grew up (he now lives in Toronto), to muse on a set of themes familiar to his readers: love, belief, landscape, the borders between self and world.

Much of the book roams across a mythico-historical landscape of jungle, village, and temple, peopled by monks, poets, and others who drift from a world of ritual and rhythm toward a vague, denatured modernity marked by violence and forgetting. Other, parallel poems are about lovers, and a convergence coalesces between these two sorts of searchers: Both are involved in a kind of quest, an inner pilgrimage. This interest in the physical and spiritual forms of desire seeks to trace junctions between the pleasures of flesh and the yearnings of spirit — "how desire bec[omes] devotional" — and those poles of fulfillment and longing between which we move.

In a beautiful sequence of poems called "The Nine Sentiments," the poet follows the stillnesses and movements of desire — its speaking and holding back, its moments of acting and reflecting. "Where is there a room," he asks at last, "without the damn god of love?" In the ongoing duet of earthly love and spiritual longing, we seem eternally torn between the immediacy of physical sensation and a hunger for divinity andorigins.

Ondaatje has developed a delicate, glancing poetics, one that touches gently on things and produces astonishing moments of Zen-like beauty. In its stitching together of short-breathed images, it reminds one of the calligraphy with which some of his characters are engaged. "There is only a path of blossoms/no flamboyant movement." The liquid tones, litany of exotic names and places, and soft flow of line breaks lulls and caresses, recalling similar evocations of heat and stillness in Ondaatje's prose work, like the descriptions of darkened rooms during the Sri Lankan monsoon season in his memoir Running in the Family.

But though his poetry can move quietly across the scrim of things, Ondaatje certainly does not avoid peering into their nature; indeed, much of Handwriting relates a yearning for moments of understanding, or even entering into, other entities. Hence, languages: the private ones in which we move and think, but also those moments of crossing, of "communion" — to use a word with both spiritual and romantic connotations — in which we seek a sharing or merging with the world or another person. There is the poet's recognition of apartness and his longing for transferral (or reincarnation) upon looking at a striking red woodpecker; and then, his fleeting encounters with a lover in a fan-cooled room during a storm. "The place bodies meet is the place of escape," Ondaatje writes. The book's final, arresting image, drawn by "the last ink in the pen," traces this nexus of longing: "The moment in the heart/where I roam restless, searching/for the thin border of the fence/to break through or leap."

Writing, like love and spirituality, is an effort to "break through." Poets, like Buddhist monks, seek to transmute experience into insight, not merely record it. Handwriting can be the waves, "the script of smoke," as well as a poet's actual writing on "rock and leaf" or paper. The world is full of such found, lived signs; writing strives to render them as something that can be shared. But the violent present always threatens.

Take two of Ondaatje's longer poems, which make curious references to burial. In the first, stone Buddhas are interred within the jungle during a time of war, to be unearthed centuries later by archaeologists. Later, those same diggers are seen exhuming the bodies of children killed in present-day sectarian violence (one thinks of Sri Lanka's ongoing ethnic struggles between Tamil and Sinhalese). The muting of these forms beneath the earth calls to mind the silencing of poetry, language, and speech by the sorrows of war — "the tongue removed" — and yet the divine slumbers on, peaceful and untouched, to be "pulled" forth to transform the world, again and again.

Indeed, Ondaatje's haunting images remain with us long after they first drift from the page to hover in a suddenly sharpened field of vision and thought. In his reflections on "the repeated pleasure of finite things," he gives us inscriptions on pages which, like those on "rock and leaf," will not soon fade away. Everything is transitory, but through the act of writing we "hold the vista of a life," constantly reenact our fleeting presence in the world — for ourselves, for others.

—Jonathan Cook

Adam Kirsch
...Ondaatje...writes plainly about beautiful things. The center of gravity of the poems...[is] in the richly sensual images....[T]here is certainly beauty, and Ondaatje's delicate handling of it.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ondaatje's first book of poetry or prose since his bestselling novel The English Patient (1992) offers Western readers knowingly attractive, nostalgic views of his native Sri Lanka. The poet playfully takes to the role of translator ("Aliganaya-`the embrace/ during an intoxicated walk'/ or `sudden arousal/ while driving over speed bumps' ") in a not-quite-wry langour--a departure from the exuberance of earlier work. Generally forgoing the first person, and settling into a short, refined line, Ondaatje disappears into the role of an observer, most sucessfully in poems like "Driving with Dominic in the Southern Province We See Hints of a Circus": "The Tattered Hungarian Tent/ A man washing a trumpet/ at a roadside tap/ Children in the trees,/ one falling/ into the grip of another." At times, the self-conscious need to explain interrupts the flow of images, as when bathing women encounter "An uncaught prawn hiding by their feet/ The three folds on their stomachs/ considered a sign of beauty," and the poet's engagements with the politics and violence of Sri Lanka--"there were goon squads from all sides"--can seem forced. But the terse form seems to push the poet towards moments of lapidary beauty. Ultimately, these calmly seductive visions form a surprisingly coherent emotional autobiography, representing Ondaatje's finest work as a poet.
Library Journal
Ondaatje is undoubtedly best known for his novel, The English Patient, on which the award-winning film was based. Good as that novel was, it is still a pity that more people havent read his poetry, which is deeply evocative and suffusedbut never overburdenedwith sensuous imagery. Here he revisits his Sri Lankan heritage, re-creating the past in sparkling takes: Once we buried our libraries/ under the great medicinal trees/ which the invaders burned; And in our Book of Victories/ wherever you saw a parasol/ on the battlefield you could/ identify the king within its shadow. Buddhas abound, as do Cormorant Girls, saffron, rice, cattle bells, and, of course, water. A poem picks up one image, then starts the next few lines with another, so that images glance off the page, refusing to settle down into straightforward storytelling. The result is a sort of mosaic of feeling and light that is affecting reading. For all poetry collections.Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Adam Kirsch
...Ondaatje...writes plainly about beautiful things. The center of gravity of the poems...[is] in the richly sensual images....[T]here is certainly beauty, and Ondaatje's delicate handling of it.
The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"Richly sensual images.... [Ondaatje] contracts the narrative to a few concrete images, giving his verse a mysterious reticence." --The New York Times Book Review

"Poems that are virtual hybrids of the contemporary and the ancient." --Boston Book Review

"Smooth poetic lines.... Another finely polished Ondaatje gem." -- Time Out-New York

"Extremely beautiful." --Robert Hass, The Washington Post

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375705359
  • Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999

Meet the Author

Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje is the author of three previous novels, a memoir and eleven books of poetry. His novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize. Born in Sri Lanka, he moved to Canada in 1962 and now lives in Toronto.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

In the dry lands

every few miles, moving north,
another roadside Ganesh

Straw figures
on bamboo scaffolds
to advertise a family
of stilt-walkers

Men twenty feet high
walking over fields
crossing the thin road
with their minimal arms
and "lying legs"

A dance of tall men
with the movement of prehistoric birds
in practice before they alight

So men become gods
in the small village
of Ilukwewa

Ganesh in pink,
in yellow,
in elephant darkness
His simplest shrine
a drawing of him

lime chalk
on a grey slate

All this glory
preparing us for Anuradhapura

its night faith

A city with the lap
and spell of a river

Families below trees
around the heart of a fire

tributaries
from the small villages
of the dry zone

Circling the dagoba
in a clockwise hum and chant,
bowls of lit coal
above their heads

whispering bare feet

Our flutter and drift

in the tow of this river
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

A Gentleman Compares His Virtue ... 3
The Distance of a Shout 6
Buried 7
The Brother Thief 14
To Anuradhapura 17
The First Rule of Sinhalese Architecture 19
The Medieval Coast 20
Buried 2 21
The Nine Sentiments 31
Flight 47
Wells 48
The Siyabaslakara 52
Driving with Dominic ... 54
Death at Kataragama 55
The Great Tree 58
The Story 60
House on a Red Cliff 67
Step 69
Last Ink 72
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2003

    A bargain at this price.

    I could recommend this slim volume as a nearly perfect Valentine¿s Day gift based almost on the attractive appearance and reasonable price, alone. The content has merit as well, and I¿m basically glad I read it. As I look at the reviews above, I find I agree with all of them¿ both the positive and the negative: they say the same things. Ondaatje hasn¿t written verse for fourteen years, devoting himself mostly to well-crafted prose fiction, and it shows. He has good control of topic and theme, an eye for detail and incident, and a very sensual command of the language. Any verse-craft is not at all in evidence¿ but it¿s easy reading in any case, so it is as much as most people may care.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)