I have given up the idea of ‘reviewing’ poetry – because my knowledge never seems up to the job. This means I start a review and then can’t publish it for The Fear. So, instead, I’m just going to regularly post ‘Five Reasons to Read’. In each there will be five simple reasons why you should own a new (or old) book of poetry. First up: Dom Domanski’s Selected Poems 1975-2011 (Corbel Stone Press). Go right ahead and order it here: https://www.corbelstonepress.com/product-page/selected-poems-don-domanski.
Reason 1: deftness. The very first selected poem (from 1975) points out that the geraniums of the title have ‘massive tempers’. I like lots of poems about geraniums, as it goes, but none start with that sort of touch that is at once within this world, with its logic, and yet outside of it, too.
Reason 2: the beauty of repetition, even in the sometimes sparse stanza. Take this for example, from a three line stanza at the start of ‘Pleiades’ (from 1982): ‘I was walking back barefooted/ I was walking back to you’. Repetition binding us when the occasional leap seems to twist our reading out of one shape and into another (see Reason 4).
Reason 3: a certain aphoristic beauty, with ‘mighty lines’ working within a compact structural focus. For example, part 6 of ‘Stations of the Left Hand’ from the book of the same name (1994) includes the two lines ‘because any god is simply giveness/ brought to our attention’. Reading Domanski often feels like sitting still in snowfall – ideas accumulate around you with stealth and you aren’t always aware of the weight upon you at first. Whilst I’m on the subject of the poetical trick bag, can you beat a simile like ‘eyes black as dead chocolate’? Is there any way you couldn’t learn from that?
Reason 4: beautiful leaps of thought. You might call them paradigm shifts or moments where you are aware of parallax, if you really wanted. Moments such as this from ‘The Corn Goddess’ (from 1986): ‘eating apples that in any other world/ would be on fire.’ Reading Domanski is an act of allowing yourself to be surprised: this is where I thought I was, but I am here. What I mean – and it’s possibly difficult without obscuring this with words – is that there is a difference between what you think you will feel / know and what you do. The moments of metaphorical twist in Domanski map out this distance and allow you to consider it. Apples are on fire in another world, see? And you didn’t even need to look up the word ontology again.
Reason 5: the juxtapositions. Here, in this collection, you can see the sweep of gods and religious imagery (ancient and more ‘modern’) put alongside the everyday and more eternal. So, in ‘In The Wilderness’ we read ‘death of language by a billion blades of grass…. no reason to address the situation’. Across a stanza we might pull in immortal signifiers, but often such deft (there’s that word again) use of quotidian anticlimax allows open thought -like the last line from the same poem: ‘white birches over all creation’. Like what Eliot tries to do in The Four Quartets. But better.
And I didn’t get time to tell you about the skill of the titles. Or the great warmth and compassion. Or the beauty. Or the huge optimism sitting side by side with wisdom, without blinkers as to the way of individual experience. Or the gorgeousness of the artefact itself – a given with Corbel Stone Press’ very high publication standards – such a polar opposite to the ‘Amazon[ian]’ publishing standards of some other presses. Go right ahead and buy it here: https://www.corbelstonepress.com/product-page/selected-poems-don-domanski.