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The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,232 ratings  ·  103 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 August 25th 1989)
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Khashayar Mohammadi
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian, poetry
"By the Kitchen sink he tells someone
from now on I will drink only landscapes
— here, pour me a cup of Spain."

Nothing sums up Ondaatje better than an excerpt of his own poetry. He is a radical aesthete, a weaver of landscapes, an empath par excellence. His poetry travels far and wide, high and deep. He is the quintessential poet of out-of-context Poetry, of Poetry woven from the transfigured mundane.

An essential work of Canadian Poetry that every lover of Poetry must own.
Bri Ana
Feb 19, 2008 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. ...more
Apr 28, 2012 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 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... ...more
mwpm mwpm
Dec 04, 2016 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
Mar 13, 2009 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. ...more
Rasa Stirbys
Feb 28, 2008 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. ...more
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. ...more
May 24, 2011 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" ...more
Apr 04, 2020 added it
It's just not for me. I was really excited about reading this, I mean the cover and title alone. But, most of the poems were dragging or just not for me. Some of it I liked but not enough to finish the book. The poems I enjoyed the most were ones that were focused on a female character or were unique in their depiction of moments or relationships. However so many felt pretentious or snobbish to me, I don't believe that was the author's intention however that's the way some came out. It's not a r ...more
Jan 01, 2014 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
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
"high on poetry and mountains."

I don't have much experience with poetry, I haven't read enough to know what I'm talking about. But I love finding myself in the midst of a block of words, and judging by that alone I can't recommend this book enough. I have a feeling I would prefer his other book more.

It is no secret that I adore Ondaatje's prose and how he creates a raw kaleidoscope of the real through the master craft of his writing. This book of poems is no exception to that same recipe.

I b
Alice Urchin
Nov 16, 2012 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
Castor Luwian
Aug 27, 2014 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
Jun 12, 2009 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.
Trey Rogge
Mar 08, 2016 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. ...more
Tracy O
Oct 12, 2007 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.
Cynthia Frazer
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
"those who are allergic to the sea, those who have resisted depravity" the intermission was particularly amusing. ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As much as I have loved MO's fiction, after reading this volume of poetry I have concluded that this is where his writing really shines, like river rocks flashing in the current. ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: aficionados of narrative verse
Shelves: freebox
I am not sure that this is an admission, or a boast: I am, when it comes to poetry, a pure philistine. Simply put, I don't see the point of poetry. Or, put elsewise, at this point in the twenty-first century, I don't see what purpose poetry serves that prose cannot serve. So I have pretty much eschewed verse for the best part of the past thirty years or so. That being said...

I have found during this Covid Moment that my reading habits have gone askew; I can't seem to easily make time or space to
fiona bogie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeevan Narney
Mar 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Often we think of him as a novelist, but his poetry is lyrical with a tone of roughness, rowdiness combined with a rhythmic rotation to it depending on the anecdote or musing on life he is sharing. He's definitely more of a novelist, but his title poem is what won me over to keeping him on my shelve. ...more
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The mother tongue
a bubble caught in my beak
releasing the air
of a language"

This line along with many others stood out to me. He writes beautifully and it's just so precise. I'll be going back to this collection for many years to come.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I could spend days lying on the ground
seeing the world with the perspective of snails
stumbling the small territory of obsessions
this leaf and grain of you,
could attempt the epic
journey over your shoulder.
Adiba Hashim
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ondaatje has a way with words that leaves you breathless.
Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: popsugar, poetry
Popsugar 2020: A book set in a country beginning with a 'C' ...more
Jamie Yu
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful collection. There is a wide variety in his poetry and I love that. I also particularly loved the prose poetry.
Corona Radiata
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Eponymous poem the pearl of the anthology.
Donald Armfield
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Cinnamon Peeler is more than a scent, more than a slab of intelligent wit or a collection of poems. It’s a language that is meant to be read.

-For John, Falling
-Philoctetcs on the Island
-Walking to Bellrock
-The Hours of Cowdust
-Pacific Letter
*** and the “Insomnia” section pages 128-129 is amazing.

Mar 05, 2015 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
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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

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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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