Interview with K. V. Dominic
Dr. Rohit Phutela
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.