I think poetry is the form of the urban, the modern. Narrative is growing up in a small town, getting a view into people that seems complete, third person, even first-person omniscient. Reading good poems is like encounters with people in the city: you just get familiar, yet human, fragments of people, incomplete stories, lots of white space, forcing you to fill in the pieces.
This book is like that, like those brief intersections with urban strangers, and, like the best of Ondaatje's work, the poems are compellingly, believably lived... the details seem so honest. Each poem carries the details of the most compelling strangers, those who force us to consider their complete but incomprehensible, almost tangible but invisible lives.
The book is also about those intersections, about the people we meet and work with and the places that happens. The coming together of people through which we learn each other and are reminded of our utter independence, the double meaning of the word "cleave."
The book is also about the intersection of these ways of living: of the callous aloneness of the city (its honesty and its pretension) and the wooded growth of the country, the open fields... the places they come together (where we live) and fail at becoming one another, fail at switching places, and yet, like the people around us and penetrating us, cannot escape being changed by that proximity.