Michael Ondaatje. Poet?!

After reading ‘In The Skin of a Lion’, our English class was given a poem also written by the author, Michael Ondaatje. I was initially surprised to find out that he wrote poems as well. This assignment gives me the chance to research him a bit more, which I plan to take full advantage of!
After reading his biography on this website I learned quite a few interesting facts about Michael that I did not know before. For example, he did not start with poetry until in 1967, where he published “Dainty Monsters.” Also, he was born in Sri Lanka, moved to England, and finally came to Canada, where he gained his B.A at the University or Toronto, as well as his M.A at Queen’s University. Ondaatje published many poems and books in his time, his most famous work probably being “The English Patient”. It was fascinating to learn that Mr. Ondaatje gained a lot of his poetry and story ideas from looking at historical documentations, a great example of this being “In the Skin of a Lion”. This takes place in Toronto within the Macedonian immigrant community, which Ondaatje had relied heavily on historical documentation for inspiration before turning this novel into a fictional story.
When I first read this article, it made me wonder why Michael Ondaatje did not write about the life of Sri Lankan immigrants, but of Macedonians instead. Surely he had more information about Sri Lankans compared to another foreign minority. When my parents moved to Canada, they stayed close together with other Iranians, because together they could support each other financially and emotionally. It was at this point that I suddenly remembered that Michael Ondaatje first moved to England before following his brother to Canada. After further research, I found out that Ondaatje spent many months in the archives of the City of Toronto and researched newspapers of the era. *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Skin_of_a_Lion(The City of Toronto Archives, if you were wondering, holds records created by the City of Toronto government as well as the records of private groups and individuals.) Ondaatje took in this information, and implemented it into his book, which I found quite interesting.
When authors write about someone or something, they tend to relate it to their own lives. The fact that Ondaatje initially wrote “In the Skin of a Lion” about a life he read about, and not experienced, was quite interesting to me.
I hope to read more of Michael Ondaatje’s work, especially his poems. I’ll definitely look more into it next time I find myself grasping for something interesting to read.


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