What Do I Read Next?
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574
By the time Michael Ondaatje published his collection of poems called Rat Jelly in 1973, he had already developed a reputation as a writer unafraid of taking chances with both descriptive language and subject matter. This book carries on that bent with what may be the precursor to some of the subjects in Secular Love in poems that deal with living with a wife who has been married before and in being the son of a temperamental, alcoholic father.
In addition to novels, plays, and collections of poems, Ondaatje has also published book-length poems, or epics, one in 1970 called The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. This well-received publication explores the history of the young gunslinger in both fact and fiction, told primarily from Billy’s point of view. Ondaatje provides interesting, colorful twists to the typical “Billy the Kid” story.
Because Michael Ondaatje relies so heavily on real-life accounts and personal relationships as inspiration for his work, it is worth having a better understanding of “where he’s coming from”—literally. Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fraticide and the Dismantling of Democracy, written by Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah and published in 1991, details the events leading up to and the continued fighting between the two most prominent political factions in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The struggles are religious, cultural, and political in nature, and this book does a good job examining the reasons for so many deaths in this small island nation.
The daughter in Ondaatje’s poem makes icons of hockey players, but we are not sure whether she has any inclinations to play the sport herself. Many women have, and Too Many Men on the Ice: Women’s Hockey in North America (Joanna Avery, Glynis Peters, Julie Anne Stevens; 1998) explores the history of women’s hockey in the U.S. and Canada, including the 1998 Olympic gold medal for the U.S. team in Nagano. Although there has been little recognition of, and even less support for, women playing this “man’s” sport, there were actually female college teams as early as the 1920s.
While much has been written on mother-daughter and father-son bonds, not too much literature has appeared on the opposite relationship—sat least not much in a “positive” vein. In 1998, editors Dewitt Henry and James Alan McPherson put together a collection of essays highlighting the ties between fathers and daughters in Fathering Daughters: Reflections by Men. This book is filled with touching and intriguing, not always happy, accounts by fathers who reveal some of their most personal, provocative feelings about their female children. From one man’s refusal to “baby talk” with his infant to another’s worrying about his daughter’s political consciousness to a third recounting a vacation he took with a daughter dying of leukemia—this is a sensitive collection of work on parenting girls and young women from the father’s point of view.
Sirens may appear in only one line of “To a Sad Daughter,” but the impact of its meaning is crucial to the poem. Meri Franco-Lao discusses the history and celebration of the allure of sirens and mermaids over 3000 years of art and literature in her Sirens: Symbols of Seduction, published in 1997. With a mixture of text, photos, and illustrations, Franco-Lao depicts the ongoing love affair between some of the world’s greatest writers, artists, and poets and the mythological creatures who almost enticed Ulysses to an early demise with their sweet, bewitching songs.