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…