Could you talk about the decision to be a poet?
Michael Ondaatje: The decision to be a poet was that I thought it would save my life. I was 18. I was in a new country. I was in Canada. I had a great teacher and I didn’t know who I was really. I was meeting poets my age. When I was in England the idea of becoming a writer seemed ludicrous and presumptuous. I wrote poetry for six or seven years, and gradually became interested in prose. I wrote The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, and began this odd monster of poems and weird photographs and prose, and the next book was Coming Through Slaughter, and I wanted to take whatever there was I loved in poetry into prose, which was essentially not saying everything. You put 70% down and then leave a lot of space for the reader to participate, and I wanted to have that sense in a novel as well.