Looking at Letters and Other Worlds and To a Sad Daughter
Poetry is a genre of great influence, of free flowing ideas, political statements, and a wide range of authors. Because the genre is so broad, it increases the possibility for an overlap of information, or in other words, intertextuality. Taking this into account when examining two poems by the same author it would be nearly impossible not to make connections between the two works, and to find the common ground between them. The two poems “Letters and Other Worlds” and “To a Sad Daughter” (Michael Ondaatje, reprinted in Richard Ellmann and Robert O’Clair. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, 2nd ed. [W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1988} 1599-1601; 1603-1605.) are great pieces of work when examined separately, and can take on new perspectives when explored with knowledge of the other poem on the front line of the brain.
When examining “Letters and Other Worlds” alone, many great features stand out and need to be investigated before adding the information of the second poem. “My father’s body was a globe of fear/ His body was a town we never knew,”(1-2). With these lines, Ondaatje sets up the family background, vividly recreating the silent world his father lived in that kept the family in terror and confusion. His “town” contained all different aspects of life his family had never seen, too afraid to show them. Lines like “ His letters were a room he seldom lived in/ In them the logic of his love could grow”(4-5) display a crisp visual imagery of a dark attic-like enclosure where the father keeps his emotions hidden away, and also great consonance in the words “logic” and “love.”
“He was the only witness to its fear dance…His letters were a room his body scared,”(7,9). The father’s “town of fear”(6) was only really visible to himself; his family could not fully comprehend what his inner thoughts contained. Also, his letters were fragile feelings that no one could confront—not even himself. This fear that lived inside the father manifested itself through alcohol, and sometimes “he would rush into tunnels magnetized / by the white of eye trains,”(20-21). Passing out was one way for the father to deal with his “letters,” and to escape from his “town of fear” that was closing in on him.
The father’s relationship with the author’s mother had many arguments peppering their days, “and [his] mother divorced him again and again,”(19). The husband and wife seem to feed off of each other when “Once again he made the papers/ though this time my mother/ wrote a note to the editor/ corrected the report-saying he was drunk/ rather than broken hearted at the parting of friends,”(46-50). This was one of the few times the father escaped his attic of emotions and made a spectacle of himself swimming after a boat (42-43), and his wife took advantage of the situation by taking the attention away from him.
At the conclusion of the poem the tone becomes questioning, as if the...