Books·Canadian

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

A poetry collection by Michael Ondaatje.

Michael Ondaatje

Funny yet horrifying, improvisational yet highly distilled, unflinchingly violent yet tender and elegiac, Michael Ondaatje's groundbreaking book The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is a highly polished and self-aware lens focused on the era of one of the most mythologized anti-heroes of the American West. This revolutionary collage of poetry and prose, layered with photos, illustrations and "clippings," astounded Canada and the world when it was first published in 1969. It earned then-little-known Ondaatje his first of several Governor General's Literary Awards and brazenly challenged the world's notions of history and literature. 

Ondaatje's Billy the Kid (aka William H. Bonney/Henry McCarty/Henry Antrim) is not the clichéd dimestore comic book gunslinger later parodied within the pages of this book. Instead, he is a beautiful and dangerous chimera with a voice: driven and kinetic, he also yearns for blankness and rest. A poet and lover, possessing intelligence and sensory discernment far beyond his life's 21 year allotment, he is also a resolute killer. His friend and nemesis is Sheriff Pat Garrett, who will go on to his own fame (or infamy) for Billy's execution. (From Vintage Canada)

Other books by Michael Ondaatje