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The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  1,927 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
Michael Ondaatje’s new selected poems, The Cinnamon Peeler, brings together poems written between 1963 and 1990, including work from his most recent collection, Secular Love. These poems bear witness to the extraordinary gifts that have won high praise for this truly original poet and novelist.
Paperback, 210 pages
Published January 28th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1989)
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Bri Ana
Feb 19, 2008 Bri Ana rated it it was amazing
Alongside "Mockingbird Wish Me Luck", this book lays constant vigil on my nightstand. Written about his mistress, but companion to anyone who has ever been awoken in the middle of the night by a low keening wail of want.
Apr 28, 2012 Darren rated it it was amazing
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife."
Isla McKetta
Feb 22, 2015 Isla McKetta rated it it was amazing
Although I liked the first half better than the second, I still can't give this book fewer than five stars. I love the way Ondaatje plays with language and his imagery is unequaled! Learned so much...
Dec 04, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This midnight breathing
heaves with no sensible rhythm,
is fashioned by no metronome.
Your body, eager
for the extra yard of bed,
reconnoitres and outflanks;
I bend in peculiar angles.

This nightly battle is fought with subtleties:
you get pregnant, I'm sure,
just for extra ground
- immune from kicks now.

Inside you now's another,
thrashing like a fish,
swinging, fighting
for its inch already.
- A House Divided, pg. 7

* * *

Two birds loved
in a flurry of red feather
like a burst cottonball,
continuing while I drove
Tim Weakley
Ondaatje is a master of imagery. Even if, like me, you don't always see the structure of poetry and how it affects what you're reading his words and the pictures they paint always feel true. The phrasing about love, so simple in two lines, say more than chapters by other men.
Castor Luwian
Aug 27, 2014 Castor Luwian rated it really liked it
the more i read of Ondaatje the more i like him. he writes a perfect balance between poetry and prose that's very palpable and pleasurable to read; the writing on the back of this book crystalizes it:

"If Michael Ondaatje's novels have the compression and imagistic power of poetry, his poems often read like narratives that have been pared down to their mysterious essence."

I really enjoy the content of his poetry too. It's got a kind of wilderness solitude wandering beer cigarette, wet dog smell t
Alice Urchin
Nov 16, 2012 Alice Urchin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I bought this book on a whim (it was $2 at a book fair), and I'm so happy that I did. I haven't read any of Ondaatje's novels, but now I want to. He write poetry like a (very good) fiction writer—almost every poem is narrative, rooted in poignant images, relatable characters, bits of dialogue that I think must have come from Ondaatje's life. There's a familiar quality to his poetry, which I think is what got me hooked on it. I feel like I've experienced the same funny, painful moments and that I ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Alieda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
I love, I love, I love these poems. I have read a couple of Ondaatje's novels, but nothing compares to the tiny shivers, the perfect images, the remarkable grace of his poetry. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who feels connected to language. Ondaatje is a master. His words teach about beauty, and speak, I believe, unspoken and inexpressable truths within the words themselves, deeper inside the poetry, to the core of being.
Jun 12, 2009 Pierce rated it liked it
Okay, I can understand why people give out about the poet Ondaatje! Some of this is quite laboured. But again, some is quite lovely.

Big metaphors, silly similes, occasionally.

I liked the stuff about his family, now that I've read his "autobiography." There's a lot of extra detail in it.

Again, I prefer the poetry interspersed with prose in Billy the Kid and Coming Through Slaughter. More... grounded. But I liked quite a lot of this more than I imagined I would.
Rasa Stirbys
Feb 28, 2008 Rasa Stirbys rated it really liked it
This is a definitive book of poetry by a man most known as a novelist. So many of Ondaatje's best novels were born in his poetry, and it is still the best expression of his love of language and obsession with loyalty. This book is an excellent addition to any collection, if only for the title poem.
Tracy O
Oct 12, 2007 Tracy O rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Killer, original poetry. This is poetry about friendship, love and artistic leanings. I LOVE it and read the book over and over. A Liz recommendation! This is one of those books you come back to again and again - an immense comfort and reminder about your connections to your family, friends and community.
Mar 13, 2009 kris rated it really liked it
This book has one of my favorite poems of all time in it--"The Time Around Scars". There's something deliciously provocative about Ondaatje's prose, and his poetry is no different. One of my favorites.
Cynthia Frazer
Apr 24, 2015 Cynthia Frazer rated it really liked it
"those who are allergic to the sea, those who have resisted depravity" the intermission was particularly amusing.
May 24, 2011 Rushda rated it really liked it
Mythical, enriching as you move with Ondaatje's lyrical knock of language. I can't pull me from the poem "Uswetakeiyawa"
Jen (Book Syrup)
Jan 01, 2014 Jen (Book Syrup) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I had high expectations coming into this book of poems by Ondaatje. The only other work that I had read from him was The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, which was recommended to me by my independent study teacher my senior year of high school. I thank him so much for introducing me to Ondaatje, because I ate that book up within less than a day, and I knew that if Ondaatje could do that with Billy the Kid then he could do it in all his other works too, including The Cinnamon Peeler.

He did just
Eugene Yu
Mar 05, 2015 Eugene Yu rated it liked it
what i really like about these set of poems is that some of them are really personalities and glimpse of the author himself and some of his hobbies and aspirations in life. I am not a very deep thinker on literature such a poems, which i know have deeper meanings, i did appreciate the clarity and humour of some of these stanzas which i find metaphorically intriguing, but nevertheless i just gave it a 3 stars because i was not able to technically digest fully the intent and meaning of these metap ...more
Nov 09, 2010 Terresa rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
A nice collection, most stunning is the unexpected "Elimination Dance (an intermision)" including a motley list such as:

"Those who are allergic to the sea

Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take photographs

Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman’s stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs

Those who have accidently stapled themselves

Those who have woken to find the wet footprints
Feb 22, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: school-books
I prefer Ondaatje's prose to his poetry, which is somewhat surprising. His writing style is quite poetic, which is magical when used to tell stories, but doesn't make as much as an impact for me in his poetry. And, honestly, I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps some of it was too abstract for me? I did love some of the poems, especially the ones which were more experimental and the ones that narrated a story. Somehow the other ones, abstractly talking about places or women, didn't affect me as much ( ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves poetry
Recommended to Susan by: Betsy Wilding Cox
Shelves: poetry
These are wonderful poems, deft, fresh and surprising.

"The car carried him/racing the obvious moon/beating in the trees like a white bird."

"Imagine the rain/falling like white bees on the sidewalk."

"There is this light,/colorless, that falls on the warm/stretching brain of the bulb/that is dreaming avocado."

"We are in a cell of civilized magic./Stravinsky roars at breakfast,/our milk is powdered./Outside a May god/moves his paws to alter wind/to scatter shadows of tree and cloud."

"Tell me/all
Lei Kit
Apr 03, 2016 Lei Kit rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
This book explains to me why English Patient was written the way it is - Michael Ondaatje is a poet. A fucking dope poet. And while English Patient is not perfect - far from it - this collection of poems is where he truly shines.

Reading his poems, to me, is like trying to figure out the mechanics of a piece of magic - you'd have a lot of fun if you succeed, but you'd still have fun if you fail, because the magic itself is beautiful.

Dec 05, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
Poetry is weird. Hard to rate a poetry book collectively, cause there may be like a series of 4-5 poems that do nothing for me. Then one or two which just floor me. I still don't fully understand if I'm doing it right. I don't know exactly what this poetry style is, but I don't think it is for me, as it was a struggle to get through this sometimes (is it possible to read poetry as leisure? Or does it always have to be cerebrally/emotionally taxing?). Still, I continue my exploration unabated.
Trey Rogge
Mar 08, 2016 Trey Rogge rated it it was amazing
This, folks, is a damn fine book of poetry. Michael Ondaatje covers tragedy, booze, dogs, sex, and several more themes, with some of the most beautiful and hilarious language that is simple yet complex, tender yet profound, and overall masterful in its clarity, concision, and rhythm. Not to mention that the title poem is THE poem to give to that somebody with whom you're looking to share your life - forget all your Brownings and Rossetties. This one is a must.
Jul 26, 2007 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The first words of Michael Ondaatje that I read were photocopied from this book. I was sitting for a painter who gave me the title poem, The Cinnamon Peeler. Later, I took a course on Michael Ondaatje. I carried this book with me everywhere that semester, wrote all over it, admired the cover, shared the poems with whoever would listen. I still buy copies and give as gifts to friends and lovers.
Nov 03, 2008 Skot rated it really liked it
A wonderful collection of Ondaatje's most resonant poems. Like his own speech, Ondaatje's verse feels accented with something exotic, so that even scrubby Eastern Ontario farmland finds a kind of narrative lushness. Filled with humour, tenderness and sensuality. The title piece is one of the most vividly olafactory and sexy love poems outside of Pablo Neruda.
Nov 04, 2016 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Ondaatje floors me. His writing is like food for the hungry. These are messy, simmering, sexy words.
Particular favorites in this collection are Cabin; 2 a.m. The moonlight in the kitchen; ('The space in which we have dissolved - does it taste of us?'); I write about you; Speaking to you this hour.
Basila Hasnain
Apr 12, 2015 Basila Hasnain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Basila by: Dr. Nukhbah Langa
A perfect read for spring: You cant help loving a poem with images so alive and themes so variant. The novelty of Sri Lankan tone and poetic style was an added reason for making it a lovely read. Pleasurable to ear and words are light on tongue like melting sugar crumb. The translations of my Postcards is still my favourite.
Not for nothing that Ondaatje is one of my current favourite writers. The Cinnamon Peeler is a little microcosm of his genius. Claude Glass, just to name one amazing poem, is the best description of the insanity of drunkenness that I have ever read.

Best memory of this book is reading it in the cold outside on steps of my house with a cup of tea.
Oct 08, 2012 Kaley rated it really liked it
Some thoughts and expressions really stuck with me.

A house as a place you can navigate in the dark

"we have love and the god outside"

"I have lost the feather of poetry"

Skin Boat

breaking a poem into many poem pieces, like in Rock Bottom

"Light," the whole poem
- These are the fragments I have of them , tonight
in this storm
Apr 29, 2013 Bridget rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"He is not a lost drunk / like his father or his friend, can / he says, stop on a dime, and he can / he could because even now, now in / this brilliant darkness where / grass has lost its colour and it's all / fucking Yeats and moonlight, he knows / this colourless grass is making his bare feet green / for it is the hour of magic / which no matter what sadness / leaves him grinning."
Apr 01, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poet friends, friends of poetry, others
I admit it, if not for the film The English Patient, I likely wouldn't have read Michael Ondaatje's fiction, his nonfiction or his poetry. To have missed this book, I think, would have left me sad without quite knowing why.
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more
More about Michael Ondaatje...

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“If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
-- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.

And you searched your arms

for the missing perfume.

and knew
what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter

left with no trace

as if not spoken to in an act of love

as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.”
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