A year of last things : poems

Michael Ondaatje is first and foremost a poet whose insights, perceptions and writing style are evident, as well, in his prose. Generally he is well known for his historical novel, The English Patient, and the eponymous film. Even though the film differed, somewhat, from the novel, it was just as elegiacally beautiful and haunting in plot, photography and accompanying score. 

As I have stated before, “Poetry is the most intense and concentrated form of writing, using words, meter, rhyme, and format to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas that can be fact or fiction” and Michael Ondaatje is a magnificently able poet to do just that.  He can be writing about bravery and kindness in the face of evil and how it changes our goals and actions,“Wanderer." A 13-paged prose remembrance, "Winchester House," about his early life in a private boys school, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, run by a malevolent headmaster. All of it summoned to his mind and spirit by a photograph, from that long-ago time, that he analyzes. An extended contemplation, in poetry and prose, “A Night Radio Station in Koprivshtitsa," that seamlessly fuses geographic locations, religious icons and of a great love. All three of these pieces need to be read slowly, several times, as the poet elegantly captivates and surprises us. A relatively short poem, “Singly in the midst of their own darkness,” is a challenge but the much shorter poem, “Nights when I drove,” directly conjures a time and a place when, “only our eyes holding on to each other with the danger of our love." There are more treasures in this collection. 

The Los Angeles Public Library owns these books by Michael Ondaatje.

Note: April is National Poetry Month, whch was “launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996 … [it] celebrates poets’ integral role in our cultures and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and–of course–poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives.” The U.S. Poet Laureate always plans special events during this month. In addition, check two LAPL Reads book lists: Love Poetry and Poetry.