Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 335
Secular Love has not been the subject of an abundance of critique over the years, but, in general, Ondaatje’s poetry has been highly acclaimed. One of the poet’s most faithful reviewers has been critic Sam Solecki who, in his article “Nets and Chaos: the Poetry of Michael Ondaatje,” says that in Ondaatje’s work “the fundamental or essential nature of experience is consistently being described and examined. The entire thrust of his vision is directed at compelling the reader to reperceive reality….” We can see this theory at work in “To a Sad Daughter” in the way the speaker keeps describing and examining his own responses to his daughter’s actions. He feels joy, he feels loss, and he seems to feel nearly everything in between. Although he is sometimes compared to Robert Lowell, John Berryman, or even Anne Sexton because of his tendency to write from real-life experiences, Ondaatje cannot really be called a “confessional” poet. As Solecki points out, ” … he’s rarely interested in enacting or describing his darkest and most problematic emotions and situations: the voice is too laconic, the tone too detached, and the attitude to the self is ironic, even self-mocking.”
Since Ondaatje has been such a prolific writer in various fields, he has encountered a wide-circuit of critics. By far, most have dealt with his novels, in particular The English Patient. In her book, Michael Ondaatje: Word, Image, Imagination, Leslie Mundwiler sums up the critics of his poetry with, “All of [them], it seems, have wanted to account for the imaginative force of his work, if only in passing…. Still, because the imagery is what makes so much of the poetry work, … reviewers and critics must at least suggest the extraordinary moments that are there in the reading even while trying out the standard ’litcrit’ labels.” Regardless of the genre, however, Ondaatje’s work is respected and admired, especially for its candor, its unusual imagery, and its ability to make us confront realities we may otherwise shun.