Being everyday / in the Canadian wilderness: Reading postpastoral poetry by Don Domanski and Tom Wayman
All Our Wonder Unavenged by Don Domanski. London: Brick Books, 2007 p/b $17.95.
high speed through shoaling water by Tom Wayman. Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2007 p/b $17.95.
Don Domanski in All Our Wonder Unavenged revitalizes the magic of everyday things and perceptions as if to make us reconsider the world we think we ought to know. Nostalgic for a more formal free verse style, Domanski’s collection avoids unnecessary complications in form and content but continues to explore the kinds of questions that have been plaguing poets and philosophers for centuries—namely, creative process and translations of language and experience. The poet-speaker, bordering on Canadian gothic, reveals this frustration as a consequence of attempting to attend both to beauty and to the geopolitics of sustaining membership in a biotic community. In “An Old Animal Habit,” for example, the poet-speaker confesses: “I walk along like blood seeking its wound / an old animal habit attentiveness to movement / backwash of my body trailing narratives behind me / stories like cut fingers on someone else’s hand” (27).
Domanski’s own “old habit” proprioceptively takes an image or idea into the “open field,” and throws it across water, recording how it skips circular patterns that extend well beyond the stone or the initial toss. Teller of tall tales or rather, tall metaphors, this poet builds image atop image bringing us to places of stillness and the unspoken or the grandiose explosive, within a seemingly organic process. Indoor plumbing, for example, as something Canadians take for granted, becomes something to fear in “Drowning Water” since it has warped primordial wisdoms concerning this sustainer of all living organisms. The poet-speaker explains:
[…] you take the water indoors it enters a room trembling
it enters a house afraid even though it’s been there before
even though it’s been in the belly of a whale in a teapot
in the eyes of Seneca in a shot glass in a glacier
even though it’s passed through sewers and aquariums
been under Phoenician ships and in the stems of roses
in the wings of locusts rising from a decision in the dark […] (31)
Nonetheless, what causes this reader to fall in love with this collection is what makes him/her sometimes lose patience with it. An overuse of certain structures of thought and poetic devices—particularly the simile—can wear a reader down, yet not enough, however, to dry-dock the collection. The reader, after all, feels no loss for wear after such a voyage through Domanski’s exquisite poetic waves than when s/he began—with jagged edges.
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Also ecological, Tom Wayman’s collection—high speed through shoaling water—… Wayman’s form and content summon an ecological Hemingway whose eye of desire on that which needs saying but can’t be said lives, as Don Domanski suggests of his own creative process, in “the voice we hear above the page” (96).
ALANNA F. BONDAR teaches English at Algoma University College in Ontario.
THE GOOSE – http://www.alecc.ca/thegoose.html – Spring 2008 – issue 4.1