August 22, 2016
If a modest intention of poetry is to stop time, then Don Domanski succeeds masterfully in Fetishes of the Floating World. This numbered series of eighteen reflective poems, published by espresso (an imprint of paperplates books) in a beautifully crafted chapbook, is in lockstep with eternity.
Each poem is aware of the energy of the sonnet form; the series averages fourteen lines a poem but each one varies from nine to twenty-two. Like those of us who know city streets but prefer to wander, Domanski likes “to make/ a sacred moment somewhere off the grid”. These lyrical poems don’t drift into solipsism or sentimentality. His use of spaces instead of punctuation emphasizes his pauses, moderating the speaking voice with unhurried human breath. The clear syntax moves with subtle grace.
Domanski, like his description of a dragonfly focusing in on a midge, gathers in his cadences and tightens the present tense. In addition to the apt word choices, juxtapositions and phrasing there is cumulative beauty in a series where this poet calls back earlier images and concepts. An aquatic bug paddling along the pond’s surface with oarlike hind legs is scientifically ‘a water boatman’; but because in an earlier poem we were on the ‘Charon blue’ that “you cross / to get to the other side” that echo helps us “know its dark grace could carry the world”. In poem 1 “green eyes of the grass blink / and adjust their vision” along with the poet and the reader; in poem 14 we are beside the poet and with “the ocean with its ear to the shore listening for / blades of grass”.
Though they are gleaned from the “Gnostic text / hidden in plain sight” that Don Domanski finds in the natural world; these transparent poems are a pleasure to read. Nevertheless, be aware that in these contemplative lines we aren’t simply at ease in nature, we are invited into darkness and silence.