Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FreeVerse: Buried 2 iv (Ondaatje)

It is Wednesday, and Cara's hosting FreeVerse over at Ooh Books! Please go check it out. There's some wonderful and very timely spooky poetry being read and posted!

That said, I am going with something slightly less topical. This might become a bad habit of mine, posting only tried-and-true poets instead of expanding my horizons. That said, I am reading the Griffin Poetry Prize anthology from 2001, and while I found a poem by Fanny Howe that started out marvelously, it fizzed towards the end. Perhaps next week I will have a new-to-me poet.

Instead, one of my favourite verses by an absolute favourite poet and novelist, Michael Ondaatje. I have reviewed Handwriting in its entirety before, but I did not post this. This poem gives me shivers. The whole of Buried 2, but this verse particularly. I would strongly recommend for full effect finding this entire volume, because the emotional weight and beauty of the poems grows cumulatively and with each re-read. There are also threads of theme and language weaving in and out of each poem, subtle and delightful, giving the reader the added pleasure of recognizing where they've seen that line or thought before.

From Handwriting by Michael Ondaatje, published by McClelland & Stewart in 1998:

Buried 2


What we lost.

The interior love poem
the deeper levels of the self
landscapes of daily life

dates when the abandonment
of certain principles occurred.

The rule of courtesy - how to enter
a temple or forest, how to touch
a master's feet before lesson or performance.

The art of the drum. The art of eye-painting.
How to cut an arrow. Gestures between lovers.
The pattern of her teeth marks on his skin
drawn by a monk from memory.

The limits of betrayal. The five ways
a lover could mock an ex-lover.

Nine finger and eye gestures
to signal key emotions.

The small boats of solitude.

Lyrics that rose
from love
back into the air

naked with guile
and praise.

Our works and days.

We knew how monsoons
(south-west, north-east)
would govern behaviour

and when to discover
the knowledge of the dead

hidden in clouds,
in rivers, in unbroken rock.

All this we burned or traded for power and wealth
from the eight compass points of vengeance

from the two levels of envy


Cara Powers said...

Oh, that's absolutely beautiful. I would love to hear it read aloud. Thanks for sharing that with us. I didn't even know Ondaatje wrote poetry.

Unknown said...

I did once read it as part of a poetry reading in university. It reads well, although it is challenging to evoke everything I feel about it with my voice.

Ondaatje is, I believe, a poet first. I have ordered his book The Cinnamon Peeler from the library; it's also a collection of poems about Sri Lanka, written prior to Handwriting. I am planning to review it for FreeVerse at some point in the future!