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Handwriting
     

Handwriting

by Michael Ondaatje
 

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He takes us through the sweep of history in the island of Sri Lanka, summoning up stories of war and love, of goon squads, kings and robbers, and of two millennia of culture, to create a tapestry of images, scents and gestures - the unburial of stone Buddhas, a family of stilt-walkers crossing a field, the pattern of teeth marks on skin drawn by a monk from memory

Overview

He takes us through the sweep of history in the island of Sri Lanka, summoning up stories of war and love, of goon squads, kings and robbers, and of two millennia of culture, to create a tapestry of images, scents and gestures - the unburial of stone Buddhas, a family of stilt-walkers crossing a field, the pattern of teeth marks on skin drawn by a monk from memory - that reveal the longing for, and expose our anguish over, lost loves, homes, and lost ways of expression. He joins the poets of old who "wrote their stories on rock and leaf / to celebrate the work of the day,/ the shadow pleasures of the night." At the same time, his artistry as a poet, and the language of these poems, supersede all individual story-moments to give us a larger understanding of the human condition - he himself can be counted among those who "shared it / on a scroll or nudged / the ink onto stone / to hold the vista of a life."

Handwriting is Michael Ondaatje's return to the place of his family, a remembrance, an honoring, and a lament of astonishing beauty. It is an irresistible work of poetic genius, and reaffirms Ondaatje's stature as one of the finest poets writing today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Extremely beautiful." — Robert Haas, The Washington Post

"A captivating journey into the beauty and wounds of history." — Echo Weekly

"A bright, lingering dream of a book." — Eye

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780676972450
Publisher:
Knopf Canada
Publication date:
04/11/2000
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.28(d)

Related Subjects

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

Meet the Author

Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto. Handwriting is his 10th book of poetry.

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