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This review is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

TRICKS WITH KNIVES Michael Ondaatje, The Cinnamon Peeler (Picador) £4.99
Michael Ondaatje, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (Picador) £3.50
Roo Borson, Intent, or The Weight of the World (McClelland & Stewart)
Jan Zwicky, The New Room (Coach House Press)
Margaret Christakos, Not Egypt (Coach House Press)
Bruce Whiteman, The Invisible World is in Decline, Books II-IV (Coach House Press)
Darko R. Suvin, The Long March (Hounslow Press)
Barry Callaghan, Stone Blind Love (Exile Editions) $11.95
Bruce Meyer, The Open Room (Black Moss Press)
Margaret Atwood, Poems 1965-1975 (Virago) £5.99

Michael Ondaatje's prose has been well served by Picador during the last few years, but until now his poetry (and he remains first and foremost a poet) has been much less visible in Britain. In 1980 Marion Boyars published Rat Jelly, which dispensed with the marvellous original title and cover illustration of There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do but otherwise was an exact reprint of that selection, which McClelland & Stewart had issued the previous year in Toronto. How did Rat Jelly sell? Poorly, I'd guess. Picador's new selection begins with an eighty-page section titled 'There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do', which drops fifteen of the sixty-five poems in the earlier selection and reshuffles others. This is followed by half a dozen pages of rather cute box-office wit labelled 'Elimination Dance'. The third, hundred-page section reprints the entire contents of Ondaatje's outstanding 1984 Coach House Press collection, Secular Love, making only a couple of minor changes. Together with the reissue of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, this now means that all the essential Ondaatje is currently in print in Britain.

The great pleasure of reading Ondaatje comes from his blend of gentleness and violence, of immediate sensuousness and memory. His ability to locate a vocabulary that will enact the frisson of the physical can be compared only with Lawrence's; and Ondaatje has a concision that Lawrence was incapable of. This is as true of Coming through Slaughter ...


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