Title: Handwriting (Signed)
Publisher: Toronto: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: 1st Edition.
Blue cloth over boards with copper detail on upper board, copper lettering on spine; photo-illustrated dust jacket; pp. , 78. First edition, signed by Ondaatje on the title-page. Book and jacket are without flaw. Poems. Bookseller Inventory # 7148
Synopsis: Handwriting is a collection of exquisitely crafted poems of delicacy and power ? poems about love, landscape, and the sweep of history set in the poet?s first home, Sri Lanka.
The falling away of culture is juxtaposed with an individual?s sense of loss, grief, and remembrance, as Ondaatje weaves a rich tapestry of images ? 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.
And, like the poets who ?wrote their stories on rock and leaf/to celebrate the work of the day,/the shadow pleasures of the night,? in these poems Ondaatje writes of desire and longing, the curve of a bridge against a woman?s foot, the figure of a man walking through a rainstorm to a tryst.
Handwriting is a poetic achievement by a writer at the height of his creative powers. In it, we are reminded once again of Michael Ondaatje?s unique artistry with language and of his stature as one of the finest poets writing today.
Review: Sumptuous, steamy, downright sexy: on the blush-o-meter Ondaatje scores a 10. Those who can't get enough of his melodious prose--most notably in The English Patient, which earned him a Booker in 1992--will find the same lyrical genius in his verse. In this collection Ondaatje transports us to his childhood home of Sri Lanka. With strikingly sensuous imagery, he conjures a land of bangles, cattle bells, stilt-walkers and a 1000- year-old buddha "buried in Anuradhapura earth, eyes half closed, hands / in a gesture of meditation...roots / like the fingers of a blind monk / spread for two hundred years over his face." As the title suggests, Handwriting is an elegaic tribute to the ancients who in "wild cursive scripts...spent all their years / writing one good book" only to be killed for toasting "the work of the day / the shadow pleasures of night...while there was war to celebrate." In his Sanskrit and Tamil love poem, "The Nine Sentiments," Ondaatje not only proves most definitively that music is the key to unlocking a reader's heart, but also argues for the healing powers of poetry in times of strife:
The brush of sandalwood along a collarboneThe final poem, "Last Ink," explains why the need to preserve human experience through art is as instinctive as the desire to die in a lover's arms. Dealing with large-scale emotions and scenes of love and war, these are poems that strike to the heart. --Martha Silano
Green dark silk
A shoe left
on the cadju tree terrace
these nights when 'pools are
reduced by constant plungings'
Meanwhile a man's burning heart
his palate completely dry
on the Galapitigala Road
thinking there is water in the forest
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