S.D. Johnson: How have your feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of it, changed since you were in your twenties?
Don Domanski: Well, I think I’m far more open now to the possibilities of poetry. In my twenties, I was hunched over the grindstone, trying to form a style and presence in my work which would carry me through. Not that I’m certain now of that “presence.” It continues to change and, hopefully grow, but I’ve learned that it transcends, in many ways, personal intentions and that was a revelation of sorts. I’ve had to learn to be open to that, to let it sweep me along. I might for instance be writing about an experience during the night, but slowly it becomes day in the poem and the whole experience itself changes. I allow and encourage that to happen. A mountain in a poem might become a blade of grass, but perhaps it was a blade of grass all along and I didn’t know. Perhaps there’s no difference between the two.
The desire for metamorphosis is a lot stronger now. When I was in my twenties, once I sunk my teeth into an idea or concept I wouldn’t let go. Now I carry no idea or concept to the page. The Chinese have a saying: “A blank page contains the infinite.” I try to allow for the infinite, while at the same time speaking out of the space of existence. I’ve learned over the years that the two are one, that they coexist, lean on one another and that the poem is a matter of chance. The poem must be ready to honour that, to pay heed to it and not hold too fervently to the concept or intention that started it. That intention, in the end, only got you to sit in front of the page or computer screen. It puts bums on seats, but doesn’t write the poem. That comes from elsewhere. It’s a matter of getting to elsewhere, which has nothing at all to do with goals or destinations. It has to do with letting go, with the free fall of images, which generate a descent into things. Since my twenties, I’ve learned to fall better, to trip over change, to stumble over my own sense of what the poem should be and to see the wisdom of falling.
- S.D Johnson interviewing Don Domanski, from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.