Michael Ondaatje’s new selected poems, The Cinnamon Peeler, brings together poems written between 1963 and 1990, including work from his most recent collection, Secular Love. These poems bear witness to the extraordinary gifts that have won high praise for this truly original poet and novelist.
About the author
Michael Ondaatje (born 12 September 1943) is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet of Colombo Chetty and Burgher origin. He is perhaps best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film.
He moved to England in 1954, and in 1962 moved to Canada where he has lived ever since. He was educated at the University of Toronto and Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and began teaching at York University in Toronto in 1971. He published a volume of memoir, entitled Running in the Family, in 1983. His collections of poetry include The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems (1981), which won the Canadian Governor General's Award in 1971; The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems (1989); and Handwriting: Poems (1998). His first novel, Coming Through Slaughter (1976), is a fictional portrait of jazz musician Buddy Bolden. The English Patient (1992), set in Italy at the end of the Second World War, was joint winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction and was made into an Academy Award-winning film in 1996. Anil's Ghost (2000), set in Sri Lanka, tells The Story of a young female anthropologist investigating war crimes for an international human rights group.
Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto with his wife, Linda Spalding, with whom he edits the literary journal Brick. His new novel is Divisadero (2007).
Excerpt: The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems (by (author) Michael Ondaatje)
TRANSLATIONS OF MY POSTCARDS
the peacock means order
the fighting kangaroos mean madness
the oasis means I have struck water
positioning of the stamp — the despot’s head
horizontal, or ‘mounted policemen’,
mean political danger
the false date means I
am not where I should be
when I speak of the weather
I mean business
a blank postcard says
I am in the wilderness
“Michael Ondaatje’s poems read with the same whimsical precision and authority one finds in his 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.”
“Ondaatje is one of the country’s best, a formidable craftsman and artist.”
—The Whig-Standard, Kingston
“You feel yourself deep inside his mind and heart, and from there you feel the poem dance.”