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.
Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto. Handwriting is his 10th book of poetry.
"Michael Ondaatje defies the normal distinction between poet and novelist. His writing is consistently tuned to a visionary pitch."
"His thrilling poems read like exquisite, unwritten Ondaatje novels."
"A breathtaking collection.-- If you're going to buy one book this year, buy this one. Ten years from now you'll still be reading it with pleasure."
--Sam Solecki, Books in Canada