Interview with Prof. K. V. Dominic
Prof. K. V. Dominic, English poet, critic, short story writer and editor is a retired professor of the PG & Research Department of English, Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, India. He was born on 13 February 1956 at Kalady, a holy place in Kerala where Adi Sankara, the philosopher who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta was born. He took his PhD on the topic “East-West Conflicts in the Novels of R. K. Narayan with Special Reference to The Vendor of Sweets, Waiting for the Mahatma, The Painter of Signs and The Guide” from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala. In addition to innumerable poems, short stories and critical articles published in national and international journals, he has authored twenty two books so far. Prof. Dominic is the Secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC), Editor and Publisher of the international refereed biannual journal, International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML) and Editor-in-Chief of the Guild’s international refereed biannual journal, Writers Editors Critics (WEC). He is also the publisher of New Fiction Journal, an international refereed annual on contemporary fiction in English. He is in the Advisory and Editorial Boards of several leading international journals. International Poets Academy, Chennai conferred on him its highest award LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD in 2009.
Prof. Elisabetta Marino is tenured assistant professor of English literature at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata.” She published a book on Tamerlane in English and American literature (2000) and edited the volume (2002) of proceedings of the “Asia and the West Conference” organized at “Tor Vergata” by Professor Lina Unali in 2001.
She co-edited the collection of essays entitled Transnational, National, and Personal Voices: New Perspectives on Asian American and Asian Diasporic Women Writers (2004), and in 2005 she published a volume entitled Introduzione alla letteratura bangladese Britannica (An introduction to British Bangladeshi literature). She has translated poems by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, collected in a volume entitled Talismans/Talismani (2006), and edited the second volume of an e-book, New Asian American Writers and News from UK, Italy and Asia: Literature and the Visual Arts (2007). In 2010 she edited the second volume of another e-book: Una città tra Oriente e Occidente. Istanbul Shanghai (A City between East and West. Istanbul Shanghai). In the same year, she co-edited a volume entitled Positioning the New: Chinese American Literature and the Changing Image of the American Literary Canon.In 2011, she published a book entitled Mary Shelley e l’Italia. Il viaggio, il Risorgimento, la questione femminile (Mary Shelley and Italy). She has published extensively on travel literature, Asian American and Asian British literature, Italian American literature, and on the English Romantic writers.
EM: Good morning Prof. Dominic! Your scholarly and artistic careers are equally amazing! Can you outline them?
KVD: I have been a faculty member of the Post Graduate and Research Department of English, Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, India for twenty six years till my retirement from service on 31 March 2011 at the age of fifty five. I have been teaching both UG and PG English literature students research methodology and MLA style of documentation for their project papers. In addition I have been the editor of the international biannual refereed journal Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures, a publication of the PG department of English. Thus I came into contact with hundreds of university/college professors, research scholars and professional writers in India and abroad. I found much thrill in editing the issues of the journals with minimum mistakes and using the correct latest MLA style. I have been very punctual in publishing the issues in the due months themselves and sending the copies to the subscribers and contributors in the respective months. This punctuality in the release of the issues created much impression and trust among the subscribers and contributors and the journal thus flourished. I took the editing and publishing of the journals as a mission—a mission of serving research scholars and college teachers. Hundreds of PhD Research scholars could publish their research articles—a requisite of their course, and innumerable college teachers got promotion by publishing their articles in my journal. This service rendered to them gave me much happiness and boost for further editing and thus I started editing anthologies. Fortunately, I got a great scholarly publisher—a lover of literature who is very selfless and never profit-minded. I am talking of Mr. Sudarshan Kcherry of Authorspress, New Delhi, who is my soul mate now. Thus our team work resulted in the creation of several edited books. So far I have edited/authored 22 books of which 18 have come out and four are under print. Given below is the list of my books:
(1) Postcolonial Readings in Indo-Anglian Literature, (2) Selected Short Stories in Contemporary Indo-Anglian Literature, (3) Stephen Gill’s Poetry: A Panorama World Peace, (4) Discourses on Contemporary Indian English Poets, (5) Studies in Contemporary Canadian Literature, (6) Critical Studies on Contemporary Indian English Women Writers, (7) Critical Perspectives on the Poetry of R. K. Singh, D. C. Chambial and I. K. Sharma, (8) Discourses on Five Indian Poets in English: Keki N. Daruwalla, Shiv K. Kumar, Pronab Kumar Majumder, Syed Ameeruddin and Aju Mukhopadhyay, (9) Concepts and Contexts of Diasporic Literature of India, (10) Changing Face of Women in Literature: The Flaming Spirit, (11) Studies on Six Indian Poets in English: Jayanta Mahapatra, Hazara Singh, P C K Prem, Gopikrishnan Kottoor, Manas Bakshi, Chandramoni Narayanaswamy, (12) African and Afro-American Literature: Insights and Interpretations, (13) Critical Evaluation of Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (14) Multicultural Literature of India: A Critical Evaluation of Contemporary Regional Literatures, (15) World English Fiction: Bridging Oneness, (16) Jayanti M. Dalal: Select Stories.
(1) Pathos in the Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore, (2) Reason and Fantasy (A Collection of Poems and Short Stories), (3) Winged Reason (A Collection of Poems), (4) Write Son, Write (A Collection of Poems),(5) Multicultural Consciousness in the Novels of R. K. Narayan, (6) Multicultural Symphony (A Collection of Poems)
On 23 September 2010 nearly ten well known professors-cum-writers from different parts of India assembled in my college for a national seminar I had organized and in that evening we gave birth to a guild of writers entitled, Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC). I was elected as the Secretary of the guild and others different office bearers. The main objectives of the guild are: promote Indian English Literature in general; publish an international refereed biannual journal entitled Writers Editors Critics (WEC) for the contributions of the members; inspire and enlighten the members in creative and critical writing; assist Ph.D. scholars in thesis writing; make the members aware of research methodology and the latest documentation style and conduct annual conferences at various States. The guild was registered as a society and the first issue of Writers Editors Critics came out in March 2011. After my retirement in March 2011, I started editing and publishing another international refereed biannual journal called International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML). The maiden issue came out in July 2011. Thus I am now busy with editing and publishing both the journals. WEC’s issues come out in March and September and IJML’s issues in January and July. I am very prompt in releasing the issues in the respective months. The Guild has now 164 members of which 74 are life members. IJML has 107 subscribers within this short period. Due to the high quality we are maintaining, both the journals have been indexed and abstracted by Literary Reference Center Plus, EBSCO Host, USA. As fulfilment of the objectives, annual literary conferences were held in Kochi (Kerala) and Mumbai in the last two years. In addition, I have conducted several workshops on research methodology and MLA style of documentation in several parts of the country.
Now coming to my creative activity, I take poetry and short story as a weapon and reaction to the evils of the society. The function of poetry is to instruct and delight. To me, the aspect of ‘instruct’—impart great values and messages, seems more important than ‘delight.’ Hence I don’t care much about rhythm, rhyme or such decorations which add musicality to the lines. I write in free verse, using very simple vocabulary, with minimum figural language. I have a very clear vision in my compositions: even an uneducated man—one who can just read and write should be attracted to my poetry and thus the message should enter into his/her mind. Unlike T. S. Eliot and several other modern great poets, I write for the masses and not for just elite and educated.
EM: It seems to me that both branches of your career aim at uncovering channels of communication, at fostering peace. Can you please expand on that? Did you have any source of inspiration? Did your father and mother have a strong influence on that?
KVD: As I have explained, I have a mission and vision which I have been scholarly fulfilling through my journals and edited books. The main objective of our life is happiness and we can attain this happiness best by serving others. That’s exactly what I have been doing by editing and publishing journals and books. Since good literature imparts the message of peace and happiness, the critical studies on them underline and focus this great message. Exhortation for peace and happiness is the main theme of my poetry and short stories. Acting as a social critic, I charge at men as well as their customs, traditions, beliefs, superstitions, pseudo-philosophies and all such narrow thoughts which annihilate peace and happiness in societies. I am a champion of the marginalized, oppressed and downtrodden. I have composed several poems on the problems of working class, sexism and ageism, child labour, cruelty to animals, casteism, etc.
I have been greatly influenced by my father and mother in moulding my philosophies and attitude to life. They were very generous and humane not only to the people associated with them but to animals also. I have dedicated my first poetry collection to my father and the second one to my mother. The second collection Write Son, Write has my tribute to my mother in the poem “Elegy on My Ma.” My wife Anne, who is also a post graduate in English literature, is my constant inspiration and first critic of my creative works. Romantic and Victorian poets–Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, Tennyson, Arnold and Indian poets in English–Tagore, Nissim Ezekiel and Jayanta Mahapatra have exerted influence on me. Buddha, Christ, Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, Nehru, etc. are the philosophers and statesmen who influenced me.
EM:Focusing more specifically on Write Son, Write it seems that writing is turned into a strong and powerful tool. The title itself looks like a prompt, to act and change the world. Some of the poems, like the one dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, seem to confirm this idea. Can you expand on that?
KVD: Write Son, Write is my second collection of poems after Winged Reason. I do believe that whatever I have written or going to write is inspired by poets’ poet, God. A poet is a sage and God speaks to the world through his/her pen. Thus the title of the book and the title poem “Write My Son, Write” is justified. This title poem is the longest of all my poems, 483 lines in twenty one sections. In fact it is my manifesto, my philosophy of life. My concept of God and creation, the triangular relation between God, human beings and other beings, how human beings play discordant notes to the symphony and harmony of universe, how other beings, though less intelligent, are superior in feelings and emotions, how religious, political and intellectual mafia exploit the innocent, illiterate laity, etc are dealt in detail in this poem. When religious, political leaders and intelligentsia fail to inject values to the masses, only poets, who are like prophets, can save this planet and its inhabitants from imminent devastation. Aung San Suu Kyi is such a prophet.
EM: The animal world seems to be characterized by a moral code, a sense of friendship and companionship and a respect for life and nature that is quite difficult to find in humans. Can you tell me more about it?
KVD: Man has to learn a lot from nature, especially from the animal world. It’s a perverted concept that man is the centre of universe and God has created the earth for his existence. It is his intelligence which makes him think so selfishly, distort the Creator as he likes and subject the animal world and plant world to his whims and fancies and comforts and luxuries. Man, the latest evolutionary being, has to respect his predecessors and ancestors, and allow them also to coexist with him. There are eleven poems dealing with animals and birds in my collections and most of them portray the cruelty shown to animals by human beings. I believe that all creations of God are beautiful and there can be nothing ugly among his creations. As Keats says, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” these creations—both plant world and animal world are sources of happiness for those who observe them. Man can learn many values from animals: love, kindness, friendship, cooperation, industry, cleanliness etc. I am of opinion that non-human beings are dearer to God than human beings because they don’t sin against Him. They move with perfect rhythm to His eternal symphony.
EM: What do you wish for Mother India, cherished in your writings?
KVD:In my poem “Victory to thee Mother India” in Write Son, Write I have expressed my wish for Mother India. At present the Mother’s heart is being torn and the blood is being drunk by three mafias—religious, political and intellectual. Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru were her great sons who filled her heart with happiness. “no doubt, your womb / will bear more great children, / who will lift us from this trance / and tether us back to the global home, / and you will sleep on the lap, / fondled by your Mother World” (Write son, Write 43). I dream of a global family where Mother India becomes an affable, sweet and darling daughter to Mother World.
EM: Plans for the future?
KVD: I would like to continue my literary activities, both scholarly and creative, with more zeal and fervor. The only problem is lack of time. Since I don’t have any assistants for the office work of the Guild–for countless email answers and phone calls–much of my time everyday has to be diverted for it. As membership rises I will be overburdened. Still fighting against time and physical ailments caused by overuse of computer, I will go on editing and publishing journals and books and at the same time find time to involve in creative activity of composing poems and short stories.
EM: Thank you very much Prof. Dominic for sharing your views and philosophies with the readers in India and abroad.
KVD: It’s my pleasure and pride dear Prof. Elisabetta to be interviewed by an Indian loving literary celebrity like you. Thanks to all readers.
Interview with K. V. Dominic
Dr. Rohit Phutela
- RP: Could you name a few most influential writers in your life?
British writers William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Charles Lamb, P. B. Shelley, John Keats, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Mathew Arnold, American poets Robert Frost and Emily Dickenson, Indian Writers in English Rabindranath Tagore, M. K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nissim Ezekiel, R. K. Narayan and Jayanta Mahapatra are the writers I like most. My poetry is mainly influenced by philosophers and philosophical writings. They include the Buddha, Christ, Adi Sankara, Swami Vivekananda, Sree Narayana Guru, The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, The Vedas, The Upanishads, The Bhagavat Gita etc.
- RP: Can you give an introduction on the birth of a poet in you?
I started writing poetry seriously very late in my life, at the age of 48. The reason why the poetic muse eluded me till I was forty-eight might be that my life had gone smooth and comfortable without much itching of mind or arrows struck into it. As Jayanta Mahapatra wrote, poetry comes out of a “bad heart”—a heart that makes one turn secretly into a leader or a loser, pushing one to choose values, attitudes and do the not-so-obvious things (Mahapatra, “Piercing the Rocks: Silence to Poetry”). I do believe that I matured very late, at the age of forty eight, to be able to choose values and impart them to my students as well as to the readers of my poems. I could find that even though the world is progressing materialistically at a rapid speed using modern science and technology, spiritually or morally it is degenerating at the same speed. The material progress is concentrated only on a single digit percent of the people and the vast majority is exploited by this millionaire minority. The wealth of the planet should be distributed evenly among its inhabitants—humans, non-humans and plants. Exploitation of the vast majority is visible in all fields of life—politics, religion, etc. Administrators and political leaders of the nations as well as leaders of all religions are exploiting the innocence and ignorance of the laity. I would like to see a revolution or radical change in this world. I dream of a socialistic world. Poetry seems to me the best medium to express my views and through my poems I want to impart some messages to the readers. The more they read my poems the happier I am.
- RP: What is the capital idea of your writings?
People today are crazy after materialism, and divinity in them is being lost to such an extent that they give no importance to principles, values, family and social relations, cohabitance with human beings and other beings. Instead they are trying their maximum to exploit their fellow beings, other beings and the planet itself. If it goes like this, the total destruction is not far away. It is the duty of the religious leaders, political leaders and the intelligentsia to inject the lost values to the masses and thus preserve this planet and the inhabitants from the imminent devastation. Instead, majority of these leaders become mafias and inject communal and corruptive venom to the minds of the masses. Corruption has become the hallmark of these leaders and influenced by them the masses also deviate from the right track to the evil track. And who will save this society? My answer is: writers, particularly poets who are like prophets. The major theme of my poetry is the eternal relationship between Man, Nature and God. Though baptized a Christian, I am primarily an Indian, and it is my duty as a teacher and poet to instil Indian values to my students and countrymen and also propagate these noble values to the rest of the world. I believe in the concept of jeevatma and paramatma (individual soul and universal soul) and that all living beings are part of paramatma or God. Again I believe in the Indian concept of Aham Brahmasmi (I am the God). Advaita seems to me more reasonable and acceptable than Dvaita. Thus I find the eternal affinity between Man, Nature and God. Man is not given liberty to kill other beings nor is he allowed to uproot plants and trees for his luxuries.
Disparities in society, problems of the poor, the down-trodden, the marginalized and the old, politics, terrorism, communalism, corruption and exploitation by political parties and religions, description of Nature, multiculturalism, global warming, conservation, horoscope, casteism, dignity of labour, child labour, poverty, unemployment, environmental issues, celebration of man’s intelligence, skills and selfless service for society are the main themes of my poetry.
- RP: Why independent India failed to produce another Rabindranath Tagore?
Versatile geniuses like Rabindranath Tagore are seldom born. We haven’t got another Shakespeare even after four centuries. If you ask why India hasn’t got another Nobel laureate for literature my answer is that there were no western promoters like W. B. Yeats for any Indian writer after Tagore. I genuinely feel that there have been many Indian writers, both in regional languages as well as English, who could be awarded the Nobel.
- RP: Do the writers in India including you enjoy the real freedom to create literary work
It’s a pity that we have limited freedom of speech in India. Though India is a democratic country one has to be very careful when one writes. Unlike the western countries, religion has become a passion or weakness to the people. In fact it exerts venomous influence in the minds of the people. Reason gives way to blind faith which is much often superstitious. So a writer has to be very vigilant when he writes on religious matters.
- RP: What is your opinion about web-journals and magazines for poetry?
Web journals and magazines give much opportunity for budding poets who can’t afford to get a publisher for his printed volume. As printing business has become less profitable and expensive, particularly for creative works of less established and emerging writers, web journals and magazines do a great service to vent out emotions and imaginations of such writers.
- RP: How do you foresee the future of Indian English writing?
Indian writing in English has bright future. It has become as competent as British, American, Canadian, Australian and African Literature. We have already had four Booker prize winners. Indian English has its own characteristics. Influences of Indian regional languages make it distinct from other Eglishes. So Indian literature in English shall not be compared with other English literatures. The real struggle for Indian literature in English is from within the country. The government—both Central and State—do not promote it as they promote vernacular literatures.
- RP: Absolutely. How does globalization affect poetry?
Globalisation is the offshoot of capitalism or materialism. As dissemination of ideas and culture across the world occurred as the result of globalisation, poetry gained something. The poem one writes or the poetry book one publishes goes to every nook and corner of the world within minutes is an advantage poetry got from globalisation. But at the same time the spirit of globalisation is material whereas that of poetry is spiritual. As an effect of globalisation people become more money minded and selfish. So what they want to read is not poetry which preaches noble values, ethics and spirituality, but those books which are keys to comfortable and luxurious life.
- RP: What is your innovative poetic style? Give example if any?
As a poet, I am responsible to my own conscience and I want to convey an emotion or a message often through social criticism. I have a commitment to my students as a professor; to the reader, scholars and writers as an editor; and to all human and non-human beings as a poet. I give priority to the content of a poem than to the style of language. That is the reason why my poems lack much imagery and other figures of speech. I am of opinion that poetry should be digestible as short stories and novels are appealing to the ordinary laymen. I adopt simple vocabulary and conversational style often in poetry, which again attracts the ordinary readers. Here I am influenced much by the Victorian poet, Robert Browning. Newspaper reports as well as features of actual incidents, tragedies, role models in society, etc. I choose very often as subject matters for my poetry. Thus social realism has been portrayed much in my poetry. I haven’t come across any poet who has used such themes in abundance.
- RP: How has your life been different since your books came out?
I have received dozens of reviews and articles by eminent writers and critics on all my three poetry books, Winged Reason, Write Son, Write and Multicultural Symphony. Most of them have been published in several international journals and edited books. An edited book of critical/research papers on my poetry is being printed. Since readers appreciate and welcome my poetry they want more from me and my responsibility increases. Since I am also an editor of two international journals as well as several books most of my time is devoted to writing and editing.
- RP: How have the serene and striking environs of Kerala, your native land, shaped your sensibility as a writer?
Kerala is God’s own country with regards to its topography and to certain extent, climate. Rainy season for nearly six months makes the State green forever. There are so many rivers, brooks and lakes besides the Arabian Sea on the western side. The Sahyas on the right side stands like a huge umbrella protecting the State from intolerable heat and cause the clouds for rains. But I am not content of my fellow beings here. They are trying to turn this heaven into a hell. The way they exploit the nature and damage environment often irritates me. Though literate, they play discordant notes to the symphony of nature. They are belligerent among themselves dancing to the tunes of dirty politicians and religious leaders. They have little love for non-human beings, plants and environment. I was compelled to present a paper entitled “Kerala God’s Own Country Turning to Devil’s Own Hell” in the SAARC literary festival at Agra in 2013. In fact my own people here make my mind bitter and aching to write so many poems dealing with social criticism.
- RP: Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?
I believe that only poetry can change and save this world. But the pity is that people have less reading habit when visual media conquered the world. Again the reading public is attracted to fiction which serves the likes of the contemporary mind. As world is after materialism, fiction satisfies people’s needs rather than trying to impart nobles values and thus try to save the humanity and the planet itself from total destruction. Great poets and great poems are there but how can the readers be attracted to them, is the question. How to survive in this world competing with the friction writers is a great challenge for poets. Tastes of the readers can be changed if publishers, academia and governments genuinely try.
Dr. Rohit Phutela is an avid scholar of English literature with a penchant for intensive research in English studies. He has to his credit more than 40 research papers and books like Indian Diaspora, Postcolonial Deliberations, Indian Contours, Communication Skills II, The Narrative of Diaspora and Life Narratives in Literature under his belt. He is Assistant Professor of English at DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, India.
INTERVIEW WITH K. V. DOMINIC
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Since no autobiography of you has been published, readers would like to know about your early days. Can you please tell your readers a bit about your childhood days, schooling and college days? And do your childhood memories and parents cast any influence and inspiration for your writing?
I belong to a below average middle class family. I am the fourth son of the six children family. I have no sisters. My father and mother, who are no more, were not educated—could only read and write in their mother tongue, Malayalam. They worked hard to look after us and we never had to starve. I was just an average pupil in school—not very studious. I was not smart enough and to some extent reserved in making friendship with others. In my under graduate college days I grew smart enough to be the leader of the class. The influence of my parents is on my character and conduct—honest, sincere, truthful, gentle and compassionate to all including non human beings.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You have dedicated your Winged Reason to your beloved father Varghese Kannappilly. Your poems like Maternal Attachment, Parental Duty show your great concern for parents. But poems like Parents Deserted, Gayatri’s Solitude present the worse picture of age old parents. How have you presented the problem of the old and the younger generation’s attitude towards it? You also believe that human life is a cycle where today’s torturer become tomorrow’s victim. Kindly elaborate this a bit.
The generation gap at present is very wide and unbridgeable. My parents and that generation were very loving and caring to their parents as well as to their children. They had to work really hard to sustain the families, whereas the new generation or youth are not so caring and considerate to their parents. They are generally lazy and are not prepared to take pain to look after their parents. So to say, they are more selfish than their parents. That’s the reason why many of them discard their parents to old age homes or anywhere seeking their own comforts and luxury. In doing so they never think that it is a vicious cycle and that one day they will also be discarded by their own children.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: It seems that you have been greatly influenced by Jayanta Mahapatra. So kindly tell us how have you been influenced by him? Apart from him who are those philosophers and poets who have influenced you to write verse?
Jayanta Mahapatra is the greatest contemporary Indian poet in English. I have edited a critical book on him clubbing with five other less established poets. I have met him several times, invited him for our GIEWEC literary festival and been fortunate to be with him for five days at Pondicherry Central University. There GIEWEC honoured him with LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. He is like an elder brother to me. I have taught his poems and essays in college. Though some of his poems are difficult to grasp and obscure in that sense, his use of language, imagery, symbolism and such stylistic aspects as well as the depth of the themes attracted me. The message in his article “Piercing the Rocks: Silence to Poetry” influenced me a lot in my compositions. He states that “Poetry has always been responsible to life. By this, one means that a poet is first of all responsible to his or her own conscience; otherwise he or she cannot be called a poet. And may be the other factors necessary to the makings of a good poet will only come later. These may ordinarily imply the craft, or the language the poet will use with skill in his poems. But somehow, these appear as frills in a poem that is already full with feeling, because the poem would have already done what it was meant to do; in other words, touch another human being, before one came to notice the other qualities of the poem.” I care more on content or message of the poem than its style. Apart from him the Romantics and Victorians, Robert Frost, Indian poets Tagore, Ezekiel, philosophers like the Buddha, Christ, Gandhi, Nehru, Marx, Swami Vivekananda, Darwin, Sree Narayana, Said, Fanon and the scriptures The New Testament, The Vedas, and epics Mahabharata and Ramayana etc have influenced me in my compositions.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You are a late bloomer in this arena. But why have you started to begin with poetry leaving other genres of writing? How have you been able to hear the song of the Muse, better call it Cuckoo (your given name to Muse)? In this context can you tell why you have named the M”use as Cuckoo?
As I have written in my preface to Write Son, Write, “since poetry is the shortest form of literature, most captivating and didactic, I believe that in this busy, hustling world people should have a special attraction to poetry. Since reading habits of modern man diminish considerably and she/he substitutes that habit to watching TV and such visual media, I believe that it is my duty as a writer to promote poetry at any cost.”
The image of cuckoo for the poetic Muse came to me when I went through Stephen Gill’s preface to his masterpiece The Flame. He has used the image of robins for the Muse. Cuckoos are found everywhere in our area and no birds sing sweeter than them. Hence I thought of concretizing the Muse through cuckoo.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: In your debut poetic collection you have written two elegies namely “In Memoriam George Joson” and “Long Live E. K. Nayanar.” So what is your attitude to death? And where lies the similarities or differences between your elegies and those of from Gray, Tennyson or Arnold?
My attitude to death is very positive. I believe in the existence of the Creator and all His creations have to say goodbye when He calls back. I have written not two, but many elegies. “Ammini’s Demise,” “Michael Jackson, King of Kings,” “Elegy on My Ma,” “Massacre of Cats,” “Tribute to Mohammed Rafi,” “To My Deceased Cats,” “Siachen Tragedy,” “Martyrs at the Borders,” and “Tribute to Siachen Martyrs” are all elegiac in tone. My best elegy is “Elegy on My Ma.” Great poets Gray, Tennyson and Arnold have written long elegies with a special purpose and highly philosophic mind. And they have followed the norms of classical elegies to some extent. Many of my elegies are born from a really mourning mind. It was a vent to express my outburst of emotions. Of course I have added philosophies as well.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Through your pen you have questioned about the inequality of the individuals mainly poorer sections, oppressed and the marginalized ones. So how have you tried to give them identity and individuality? And in doing that how have you tried to dissect injustices and corruptions at all levels?
I have portrayed the problems of the poor, the marginalized, women, weaker sections and the downtrodden in many of my poems. The injustices done to them by the five percent of the society, the rich and the government have been brought to the notice of the readers through these poems. I haven’t exhorted these sections to rebel against the government or the rich for exploiting them. Rather I have been indirectly trying to make the rich and the government aware of these miserable ones’ plight and do reparations for their exploitations. By establishing the eternal relation between God the Creator and Man and Nature I have been emphasizing the fact that all human beings are siblings and again they are siblings of other beings on earth. Hence it is one’s duty to protect others and not exploit them. The concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and the universe as a single religion in place of diverse religions on earth are the driving force of my writings.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: There is a kind of dualism in your compositions. Sometimes you look so honest for your sensuous and vivid description and sometimes so brutal and pensive. How have you balanced this kind of dualism in your verse? And does this duality hold any specific purpose for you?
This duality is part of our life as well as world. As Shelley has stated “our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” I have composed majority of my poems on the saddest thoughts. At the same time we find in nature as well as in our lives occasions and instances of mirth and happiness. I have portrayed them as to evoke positive and optimistic thinking which gives us boost to voyage on this turbulent sea of troublesome life.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You have dealt with poverty, religious harmony, suffering, corruption, unemployment, childhood, nature, environment, female foeticide, beauty, transgender, unemployment and many other issues. Among all these which issue has been able to catch your attention most? All these issues have been handled by other contemporary Indian poets writing in English. So where lies the unique poetic characteristics of K. V. Dominic?
I think that no other Indian poet in English has dealt with so deeply like me the issues of cruelty to animals and their relationship with human beings and relationship between God, Man and Nature. There lies my unique characteristic.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You are a poet, professor, critic, editor and short story writer. So can you please tell me how you are managing your time schedule? And how have you diverted your energy in so many ways?
True, I am involved with many activities at the same time. Editing four issues of two international refereed journals takes much of my time. Being the secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) having 250 members—all writers, professors and research scholars, I will have to reply to their emails, at an average of some twenty replies every day. Besides editing of my edited books and after all these activities I have to find time for my creative writings. Moreover there will be several phone calls from the members and friends every day which have to be attended to without any lapse. I am a responsible husband and a father and so I will have to find time to complete my domestic duties. In spite of all these busy schedules I go to bed at 11 or 11.30 pm and get up at 5 am and take a siesta for one hour after lunch.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Your dealing with nature, your philosophy of beauty, the mysticism and sensuousness cast you as a man of Romantic sensibilities. How far would you like to call yourself a Romantic one? And does your writing in free verse serve any specific purpose for you?
Actually I am not following any school or there isn’t any direct influence of any movements in my writing. True, you may find elements of Romanticism as well as Realism in my poetry. When an idea or an emotion comes to my mind I don’t want to strain much to put them on paper. I am least bothered about rhyme or stanzaic patterns. I am very particular about the diction to be very simple as well as apt and rhythmic. Alliteration and assonance, if at all any, come unawares. So to say the difference between prose and poetry is very thin in my poetry.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: In one interview you have said that “Write My Son, Write” is your favourite poem as it is a document of your philosophy and views. So how have you manifested your views and philosophies here? A part from this in which poems can we see autobiographical elements?
As I have stated in my prefaces to the poetry collections, Advaita philosophy and the Buddhist and Jain thoughts have exerted great influence on me and my writings. In my magnum opus “Write My Son, Write” in twenty one sections, using God the Father as my mouthpiece, I have manifested my philosophic views. God the Father reminds His human children of their role and position in this world among the multitudes of other children. He also points out to them their disabilities and warns them not to boast of their superiority or treat sub humans as their slaves or torture them or kill for their comforts and luxuries. God exhorts human beings to flow with the system and never play discordant notes in the multicultural, universal eternal symphony.
“Multicultural Harmony” is another philosophic poem in six sections. There the poet himself is addressing his fellow beings and reminds them of the need of multicultural coexistence in this world. Autobiographical elements are there in some other poems. Elegiac poems such as “Ammini’s Demise,” “Elegy on My Ma,” “Massacre of Cats,” “To My Deceased Cats,” are autobiographical. “Helen and her World” is another autobiographical poem.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You have been influenced by three philosophies namely Hindu, Jain and Buddhist. How far do these three philosophies shape your creative faculty? And in this context your readers want to know how far your upbringing as a Christian influences your writing?
The inspiration for my love for all creations of this universe–humans, non humans, plants and lifeless objects—springs from the philosophies of Hindu, Jain and the Buddhist. One of the main themes of my poetry is this relation between God, Man and Nature. Though I am born as a Christian I am not tied to the practices of Christianity. I deem all religions equal. In fact my religion is universal religion, which preaches to love all creations of the world and show discriminations to none. I believe in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. This love is the theme of majority of my poems. Christ has been a great influence to me. I consider Jesus Christ as one of the finest souls lived on earth. His preaching on the theme of love influenced me a lot. He was indeed a revolutionary—stood for the poor and downtrodden and lived among them. He was crucified by the clergy, and now the corrupt, worldly clergy is crucifying him daily. I agree cent percent to Gandhi’s view “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I have been criticizing this anti-Christian way of life of the Christians through my poetry and short stories.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You have discussed a lot about the condition of women in our society. How have you presented the problems faced by women? And do you think that women are venerable?
True, I have composed several poems about the condition of women in our society. I have also attacked the root cause of their problems—the element of patriarchy. Through several women characters—fictional as well as historical–I have portrayed the issues and problems. No doubt women are venerable. I repeat my lines from “Multicultural Harmony”: “Woman is most venerable / for she is your mother / she is nurse and teacher / and above all / she is the lamp of house.” Men very often fail to measure the quantity of work women do in their houses. They have to bear children in their wombs for nine months, give birth to them painfully, feed them and rear them. Very often they are not able to sleep well when they have feeding babies with them while their husbands will be fast asleep. I am talking about the majority of women who belongs to the average and poor class. Again they will have to work hard in their kitchens, and then on their farms or as labourers to look after the family. Most often women are more dutiful and hardworking compared to men. What they have earned is spent for the family, while a good share of their husbands’ earnings is spent in the liquor shops and bars.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Poetry is the criticism of life. How have you proved this dictum stronger? It is very much clear that from the very beginning you have taken the role of a social reformer. So how have your compositions worked as an agent of social reformation?
The primary duty of a poet or a writer is to point out the drawbacks as well as evil practices of his fellowmen. His writings should act as a correcting force to the society. A poet is a man having more sensibilities and moral consciousness than ordinary people. Hence it is his duty to educate the masses. The ultimate aim of our life is attainment of happiness. But one’s happiness shall not be a cause for another’s sorrow. So how can everyone attain happiness causing sorrows to none is the economics the world needs. This universe is a big concert, enjoyable and it is the duty of everyone to play concordant notes and not discordant notes of this huge symphony. The poet should teach the society to play this harmonious note. In fact very few play concordant notes and flow with the system. Huge majority play discordant notes and disrupt the eternal flow of the universe. That exactly is what I have been pointing out though my poetry and short stories.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: You are a poet deeply rooted with your native culture and land. So how have you presented the surrounding and culture of Kerala in your works? And what makes you truly a poet of Indian sensibilities?
No poet can remain in the sky and write about fictitious things having no connection with reality. His feet are rooted on the place he belongs to. He can’t shut his eyes and write. He is bound to observe things happening around him. Similarly he can’t write of a people and culture which he is unfamiliar of. Rooted in Kerala I have access and familiarity to the locale and people around me and I write on them. This is what exactly other poets and writers are doing.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: It is very much clear that you are quite disappointed with the Man who is according to you the cruelest and ungrateful creation of God. Why do you think so and are you ashamed of being a part of human kind? In this context kindly tell what kind of utopian society and role of man do you dream of?
Taking into account the universe as a big house and God the Creator as the father and all creations as His children, Man is the cruelest and ungrateful child of God because he alone disobeys and disrupts the eternal flow of the universe; he alone plays discordant notes of His symphony. Man is trying to annihilate the entire life on earth. The damages he does to Nature and environment may lead to total annihilation. At the same time using his brain he has done unimaginable wonderful things which other species can’t do. I am not ashamed of being a part of human kind. My purpose is to make human beings aware of the destruction they have been doing on the earth. I believe that what I have been feeling, or many other poets like me have been feeling, can be felt by all human beings if they are made aware of. Thus this world can be made a better place. It is not a utopian world or society which I am seeking.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: What are the perceptions of beauty of K. V. Dominic when he says that eternal beauty is in achievements eternal? And how far have you become aesthetic and transcendental while portraying Mother Nature?
I believe in the concept of a Creator and all creations in this world are His. Religions call Him God the Father. He is the eternal truth. He is the embodiment of beauty and all His creations are beautiful. Thus this universe and all its inhabitants—living and non living are beautiful. Hence nothing is ugly to God, the Father. But man is not able to find this beauty in all creations. What is pleasurable to his eyes or other senses, he calls beautiful. My argument is that outer beauty which is transient or mortal lies on all creations whereas eternal beauty—beauty which gives eternal happiness lies in eternal achievements of man.
Nature is considered a mother because like a mother Nature feeds and protects the inhabitants. But her wicked sons, human beings, try to rape and even kill her.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: How will you like to define the term ‘Multicultural Symphony’ in the context of your works? And reading your poems often cast you as an existentialist, as a lifelong search for peace and harmony prevail there. Do you agree with me?
‘Multicultural Symphony’ is the title I have given to my third collection of poems. The opening poem of the book is titled “Multicultural Harmony.” In that poem I have explained in six sections what I mean by multicultural symphony or harmony. Beauty of this universe lies in its diversity. Unity in diversity among human beings is termed as multiculturalism. There are innumerable religions, philosophies, languages and cultures among human beings. For a happy life on earth—the ultimate purpose of life—a harmonious existence of human beings in the midst of their heterogeneity is essential. That is what I mean by multicultural symphony.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Poems like “A Sheep’s Wail,” “I am Just a Mango Tree,” “Nature Weeps,” “Attachments,” “Natures Bounties” show your concern for nature and the anthropocentric attitude of Man. So what are the roles you have tried to fulfill as an eco-socialist through your verse? And how have you presented the interconnectivity of God-Man-Nature in your compositions?
I believe in the teachings of science and my concept of religion is based on it. To me religion and science are twin sides of a coin. Unlike the biblical story of the creation of man I believe that man is an evolutionary being. Thus taking man as one among the multitudinous species of animals he can’t claim any superiority or mastery over other animals. It is our reasoning power which makes us think selfishly and assume ourselves as the chosen ones of the Creator. God the Father can never discriminate or show partiality to one of his children (Men). He loves all creations equally and hates none. True, man has some distinctive features and powers. Other species also have such distinctive features and powers which we do not have. Hence there is no logical reason for us to claim any superiority or mastery over other species. The anthropocentric attitude of man is a crime and sin against Nature as well as the Creator. Man has to learn this truth and be humble enough to allow other beings and plants to live with him. He should be rational enough to think that other creations—non humans, plants and lifeless objects have equal right to this planet. Live and let others live should be our policy. We shall never exploit nature for our comforts and luxury. We can use the bounties of nature to serve our necessities–for our survival or existence as other animals do. Before you cut a tree for your shelter, another tree should be planted. The equilibrium of the planet should be maintained always.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: How far have you succeeded in your goal as a poet? The fight for a meaningful life has just started and a better world is yet to make. So definitely you are writing and please share with your readers about your future projects.
When I started writing I never thought that my poems would get this much reception from different parts of the world as it is now. I started composing very late in my life, only thirteen years back. I consider myself as a minor voice. By the grace of God the messages I convey through my poems hit the minds. More than fifty critical and research articles have been published on my poems. In addition to the four poetry collections published by Authorspress, New Delhi, one complete collection of my poems and another critical book on my poetry came out from USA in 2016. Translations of my poetry in Hindi and Gujarati have been published. Similarly translations in Bengali, French, Telugu and Tamil are going on. Researches on my poetry for PhD have been begun by some scholars. These all show that I have succeeded in my goal as a poet. As for my future plan, I will go on writing on new themes and burning issues of the world. Changes in the attitudes and habits of man will not come suddenly, but gradually. I am very positive and optimistic and believe that a better world will be born.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR: Your patriotism, your fight for the marginalized and oppressed sections give your poetry a postcolonial touch. And at the same time you’re dealing with landscapes and social issues with the tools of irony, satire and humour which make you a poet of postmodern sensibilities. So how far would you like to define yourself? And what should be the role of younger generation of poets according to you?
Your analysis of my poems is right. You can label me as postcolonial and postmodern. What a poet ought to write now—that is exactly what I have been writing. I touch universal themes as well as national and regional. I live in a place which is semi urban. So I observe and experience both urban and rural things and issues. Since our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought, as Shelley says, my advice to the younger generation of poets is that they should concentrate more on saddest thought and be mouthpiece or spoke persons of the poor, down trodden, and the marginalized. They should fight against the cankers of the society. They should be protectors of the environment and nature.
GOUTAM KARMAKAR, PhD Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, West Bengal, India. Email: email@example.com