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WAR IN AN EMPTY HOUSE

Don Domanski.

Toronto, Anansi Press, c1982.
70pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-88784-094-9.


Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Sister Anne Leonard.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.


War in an Empty House is the third collection of poems by Don Domanski. His other two works, The Cape Breton Book of the Dead and Heaven elicited praise for original and powerful writing. Domanski is a native of Cape Breton Island, and images of the sea paint his world of fantasy; it is as if his "Dream-time" poems are born "far out to sea in a place without/horizons, in a place where you dry your hair/with death, where you comb it out with nightmares of/a body falling through space." These lines taken from "One for an Apparition" in the first section, "Dreamtime," show Domanski's use of image association and his skill with the prose poem.

The experience of the dream-like quality of movement from one sensory image to another creates a pattern that defies the ordered world of logical thought. Several images resemble those metaphysical conceits that strain the intellect. In the second part, "Hierology" Domanski grapples with the hierarchical order of beings, but there is no hierarchy only a hierology ending on a distant shore, "where everyone/eventually goes to die" the prophet, the martyr, the ants, the flowers. It is in this section that the poet depicts the netherworld of the rose in a four-stanza, prose-poem entitled, "Sub Rosa." This is a very provocative and paradoxical piece because of the connotations of a rose; here, the poet depicts the dark side of life's desires: chaos, frustration, emptiness, war; and from this poem comes the title of the collection: "a rose is not a rose/but always a war. War in an empty house. A/locked door."

The final section, "Cities and Pages" contains a sequence of three prose-poems entitled "3 Openings for a Novel"; these "openings" could be used as effective starters for a writing class.

The dream-pattern logic, the combination of poems and prose-poems, and the juxtaposition of unusual images reveal talent and craftsmanship. These are not easy-reading poems and, in fact, require several readings. There is, however, a fascination upon entering this world of the imagination and at times a recognition of one's own dream time.


Sister Anne Leonard, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Halifax, NS.
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