Governor General's Literary Award winning poet Don Domanski, who passed away in 2020, is remembered for his ability to combine epic themes of environmentalism and metaphysics with his trademark intimate, lyric style. His final, posthumous collection, Fetishes of the Floating World (Brick Books), represents the culmination of that aesthetic: a penetrating, moving, at times mystical exploration of the world and our role in its lifecycle.
We're proud to present an excerpt from Fetishes of the Floating World courtesy of Brick Books today. Here, in the poem "Homeworld", we get a perfect glimpse of Domanski's style and the impact of his literary imagination.
Excerpt from Fetishes of the Floating World by Don Domanski:
for Jennifer Lee
this is the growing of things birthing of skin
and bone stem and leaf this is planet
earth beneath snowlight and desert sand
this is the place to find human beings walking down
the street with their souls drifting just ahead of them
with their faces half-lit by their own eyes
this is where you find the bodied and unbodied
living and the dead also apple seeds and moonfish
swimming by with heartbeats like fingernails
pinching and releasing flesh their minds turning
in their sockets once every hour
this is where glair and yolk sing to the heavens
where each clade is born to their spiritual dimensions
where God and the absence of God are interchangeable
where the prayer on the lips and the claw in the pulse
send the same message to the stars.
in this world every life is a grubstake and a courtship
with affections foraging and fretting beneath the sun’s heat
with rootings of pain running down deep into soil
with sorrows immaculate and tacking steadily ahead
every grief transfixed on a breath
every teardrop tigering through a vein
in this world there are beehives and mice there are
rivers and seas and a great darkness perched
on each grain of sand at the water’s edge in this world
all life is connected right back to the flyblown point
of our origins here everything moves towards
the apparitional eventually ghosting outside the frame
even us especially us with our religious endgames
and our backstairs to paradise.
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on this globe there are lightning strikes and plankton
there are population shifts among prophecies
and superstitions at night there is the homily
of quietude there is the homily of similitude
during the day there is the discourse on going forth
the discourse on building up at the graveside
there is the preachment of falling down
on this globe chickadees sing and glaciers calve
and the spirit flows with blood through
a wickery of veins and arteries
with imaginings packed in among the body’s organs
with a heart that is kept polished like a red apple
in case the Teacher arrives unexpectedly
in the guise of a drifting cloud or a fly’s wing
or a sprig of angelica from somewhere
in the green world.
on this planet you must listen carefully
to stones and rain to the creaking hinge
on each blade of grass you must look
long and hard at other beings
and if they’re not iridescent like chatoyant silk
you have no business on this green surface
floating in infinite space
on this planet there are yellow jackets
and red-tailed hawks each with a consciousness
to match there are gametes with circular psyches
sighing upward to a multiplicity
there are lifetimes spent in soil there are minds
of water and salt huge ocean-going minds calling
to one another pressing their thoughts against
strengthenings of inner light
on this planet every sigh creates a morphic resonance
somewhere in the dark corners of light
in that shadow rising out of light
the mind’s shadow its brevity its silent grace
its faint edges dispersing and gathering in again
unsure of where to settle down for the night.
Excerpt from Fetishes of the Floating World by Don Domanski, published by Brick Books. Copyright 2021, Don Domanski. Reprinted with permission.
Don Domanski (1950–2020) was born and raised in Sydney, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. He lived briefly in Toronto, Vancouver and Wolfville, before settling in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he lived for most of his life. Author of nine collections of poetry, his work is infused with a deep and abiding interest in mythology, religion and esoteric philosophy, and has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
He mentored other poets through the Banff Centre for the Arts Wired Writing Studio and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Mentorship program. Also a visual artist, his work often appeared on the covers of his books. He collected fossils for many years, before turning his attention to meteorites and Stone Age tools. He is credited with discovering the neural arch of a 350-million-year-old (Lower Carboniferous) amphibian previously thought to have gone extinct in the Devonian period.
His poetry collections Wolf-Ladder (1991) and Stations of the Left Hand (1994) were shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, and in 1999 he received the Canadian Literary Award for Poetry from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. All Our Wonder Unavenged (2007) was honoured with the Governor General’s Award, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award, and the Atlantic Poetry Prize, and Bite Down Little Whisper (2013) won the J.M. Abraham Poetry Award.