Bite Down Little Whisper

Oct 15, 2015

It is fortuitous that I began reading a book on quantum theory while reviewing this book. A poet like Don Domanski bears his words well enough, yet he steers us in the direction of the primordial soup.

Not that his soup of words and physics isn’t glorious and radiant, but I begin to feel a little like I did when I was a young teen: small and insignificant. Kudos to Domanski. For too long we’ve run from such telescoping thoughts, as if humans were the be-all and end-all of existence, or that we could simply keep barging through and stomping on all the other forms of life on this blue globe.

Domanski counsels us on how to live well in randomness and insignificance. Read Bite Down Little Whisper for its slow and measured intake of the world. He reminds us of “the wilderness in a raindrop,” our “one nanometre thick” soul, “coyote synergy in the hills” and that “the garden can’t offer us mercy or love   only transcendence.” He writes quiet, intelligent poetry that powers a double take, or as Mark Strand put it: this is intimate poetry on a grand scale.

Domanski’s stunning resemblance to Father Christmas aside, we are in the presence of sobriety. He frets about the inability of words to express rather than verify – “in the end being human is a long and wordless/ journey” – yet what poet more surely wins our trust when he writes: “every footstep/ is a reason to remain still.”

It is apparent that Domanski is accustomed to listening. He saves all the punctuation in the poems for after the last words of the last lines – one small dot, a period, the “little house of misfortune.”

Although he writes with a religious zeal, it’s tempered by a gritty earthbound connection that eschews the celestial for the swamp. In “Wilderness of the Raindrop” the poet leaves the vast seascape to climb up a bluff. He conveys a feeling of moving away from the immensity of space to go to the sheltered confines of forest and its details. Darkness closes in with a spit of rain in the air, yet at this interstice between here and there, before he finally turns his back on the panorama and presumably hikes home through the woods, he muses

every night the unclottable arteries of the afterlife empty
their blank stories onto the rocks below    to be carried
out to sea   to be finned   gilled   deepened by whitecaps
and fathoms   caught in nets a universe away.

He’s talking about transformation, connectivity and, in a scientific twist, a continuity of chemicals and origins.

In his book A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence M. Krauss poetically relates how the stardust in our human bodies originated billions of years ago after the Big Bang. If Domanski hasn’t come across that notion himself, he has an intuitive grasp of it. In his poetry the smallest is writ large and the largest writ small without preference.

Domanski is one of our best poets. His maturity, clarity, range, and profundity simply astonish. ♦

Andrew Vaisius is a writer in Morden and a day care centre director in Winkler, Manitoba. His Domestic/Imported chapbook is in a second printing.

Bite Down Little Whisper
by Don Domanski
London, ON: Brick Books, 2013, ISBN 9781926829869, 97 pp., $20.00 paper.

Buy Bite Down Little Whisper at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

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