Michael Ondaatje: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems (3099 words)

Ryan Webb (University of East Anglia)
Download PDF Save to Bookshelf Tweet Report an Error


The Collected Works is a difficult text to categorise generically. Its subject is historical – the late nineteenth century American outlaw William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid – yet its approach is every bit as fictive as biographical, if not more so. Ondaatje himself has referred to the text as a poem, yet the book is a collage of poetry, prose and image, incorporating quotation from, and pastiche of, both historical and pop-culture sources. The best way to describe it, perhaps, is as a work of historiographic metafiction, viewing the past, and the past’s textual remains in the present, through a highly self-conscious, self-reflexive and fragmented literary filter.

The text’s full title – The …

Citation: Webb, Ryan. "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 March 2004 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=5864, accessed 18 May 2022.]

5864 The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.