(Phillip) Michael Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), on September 12, 1943. Ondaatje grew up surrounded by his extended family on an estate in Kegalle owned by his paternal grandfather, a wealthy tea planter. In 1952, four years after his parents’ divorce, Ondaatje moved to England with his mother, sister, and brother to attend Dulwich College, a public school with a strong academic program and a long literary tradition.
At the age of nineteen, Ondaatje followed his brother, Christopher, to Montreal, Canada, then moved to Lennoxville in eastern Quebec, where he attended Bishop’s University, majoring in English and history; it was there that he first began to write. In 1964, Ondaatje married the artist Kim Jones, with whom he has two children, and transferred from Bishop’s University to the University of Toronto, where he earned his B.A. in 1965. That same year he was awarded the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Award, the first of many awards recognizing his work. In 1967, Ondaatje received an M.A. from Queen’s University, published his first collection of poetry, The Dainty Monsters, and began teaching English at the University of Western Ontario.
In 1969, Ondaatje’s second volume of poetry, The Man with Seven Toes, was published, followed a year later by the short critical work Leonard Cohen and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems. During this time, he also...
(The entire section is 597 words.)