Tin Roof

Michael Ondaatje

¶ One of Ondaatje’s most personal writings, Tin Roof is an extended meditation, shifting fluidly away from and back into the material world. On the surface it is a diary of escape as a husband hides away in a small tropical cabin, wrestling with the moral complexities of leaving his marriage. But the poem is also an intimate portrayal of a writer struggling to find the precarious balance between the demands and passions of both art and life. An aesthetic tour de force, Tin Roof is an intense and moving submersion into the poetics of “pain, loneliness, deceit and vanity.”

The production of this book was also rather intense and turbulent, making it, without a doubt, the most challenging publication Greenboathouse Press has taken on.

In a way, this project began more than 20 years ago, with my first reading of Ondaatje’s Secular Love, a book that had a major influence both on my own writing and my sense of literary aesthetics. An appreciation for the delicacy and precision of his early work has directly contributed to my interest in, and efforts as a book designer and printer, and, at some point, I knew I’d have to produce an edition of Ondaatje’s writing.

Tin Roof first appeared as a small pamphlet produced in 1982 by the Island Writing Series (Lantzville, BC), now a rather scarce item. It then appeared as the third section of the poetic “novel” Secular Love (Coach House, 1986), eventually landing in Ondaatje’s collection of selected poems The Cinnamon Peeler. This new edition of the poem turned out to be a rather epic adventure into the technical side of fine-press printing, which has made all other Greenboathouse Press projects seem like practice sessions for the real thing. For a rather thorough description of the process, and to see a variety of images related to the technical side of production, please have a look at this page.


Michael Ondaatjehas published 13 books of poetry, and won the Governor General's Award for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and There's a Trick With a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems 1973-1978 (1979). His novel, Anil's Ghost, was the winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the 2001 Irish Times International Fiction Prize and Canada's Governor General's Award. The English Patient won the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Governor General's Award and was later made into a motion picture, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the Skin of a Lion, a fictional story about early immigrant settlers in Toronto, was the winner of the 1988 City of Toronto Book Award, finalist for the 1987 Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for best novel of the year in English, and winner of the first Canada Reads competition in 2002. Coming Through Slaughter, is a fictional story of New Orleans, Louisiana circa 1900 loosely based on the lives of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and photographer E. J. Bellocq. It was the winner of the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award. Divisadero won the 2007 Governor General's Award. Running in the Family (1982) is a semi-fictional memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood. His most recent novel is The Cat's Table.



7.5" × 12.5", 36pp. 65 copies.
ISBN: 978-1-894744-33-1

Out of Print

Alcuin Society Book Design Award Winner


Hand-set in Jan van Krimpen's Romanée, cast in 1928 and hauled back from Holland in 2011, in two different heights (.928 & .933), and milled, on a modified Ludlow Super-surfacer, to the lower stature. As the elusive Romanée italic was nowhere to be found, the italic here is Monotype Van Dijck, shimmed and underlayed to align with the foundry type. The book was prepared with the assistance of Christina Hebert & Cailtin Voth, and printed on a Vandercook 15-21 at the Greenboathouse Press in Vernon, BC, during the sweltering heat and endless rains of Okangan summer & fall.

The page paper was hand-made for the edition by Reg Lissel in Vancouver, and the wrapper by Cave Paper in Minneapolis. The binding design is by Jason Dewinetz, executed by Alanna Simenson. Held in a slipcase covered with black Japanese silk.

Limited to 65 numbered copies, all signed by the author.