Conversation with Dr. K. V.
Dr. S. Barathi
(Published originally in the book
Conversation with Contemporary Indian English Poets, edited by Dr. S. Barathi and
published by Book Leaf Publishing, September 2023, pp. 67-84.)
Greetings to you sir! First of all let me congratulate you on your fifth
collection of poems. Sir, I have a few questions to ask you about your recent
works. First, the Anthology Cataracts of
Compassion has won a wide acclaim from the young and the old equally. Could
you please share your experiences while writing the collection?
Dr. K. V. Dominic:
Greetings and thanks dear Dr. Barathi! What you have stated is true. Cataracts
of Compassion has been appreciated by many
readers and critics. I have been very particular in avoiding repetition of
subjects and topics in my poetry. As a social critic, some burning issues and
themes had to be dealt with again and again in each anthology. Cataracts
of Compassion has thirty four poems and the very
first poem “Enlighten Us Lord Buddha” in ten sections has blessed the
collection, I hope. Spirituality, Nature, environmental issues, poverty,
problems of women, relation between humans and non humans, influence of
scientific growth on society, role models in society, freedom of expression,
terrorism, equality, etc. are the themes touched in this collection. Through
these poems I have been trying to portray the contemporary issues as well as
eternal values. As a poet I am growing and that might be another reason why
this latest collection becomes more appealing.
Personally, I appreciate more your Haiku in the anthology. They cover various
aspects of life right from eco-consciousness to socialism. They leave a deep
impact on the mind of the readers. It is also interesting to find that these
poems have evoked a wide range of emotion especially among the young readers
and they feel highly motivated to strive for the betterment of the society.
What do you feel about this sir?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: In fact
those triplets you have mentioned are not haiku in the strict sense. Instead of
the haiku syllabic pattern of 5-7-5 I have used syllables of varied length.
Haiku, a Japanese originated poetic form has Nature as its theme. I have used
not only themes of nature but also social, environmental and philosophical
issues. I have given the title to this group of poems as “Triplets of Wisdom”.
Wonderful ideas and messages and values could be imparted through these triplets.
That is the beauty of these micro verses.
Sir, as I had been associated with you since 2010, I understand that you are a
great humanist. How has it been possible for you?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Being a
human I ought to be a humanist. That’s what the Creator expects from human
beings. The rationality naturally tends man to act as a humanist. This element
of humanism is inherent in all human beings. To be a humanist doesn’t need any
belief in religion or superstitions. A theist as well as an atheist can very
well feel that this planet earth is mother to all its inhabitants. So it is
quite natural that one will have a fellow feeling to other human beings and non
human beings. One will be forced to consider others and feel sad and agitated when
the necessities and comforts one enjoy is denied to others.
Your compassion is quite oblivious to the readers through many of your poems
like “Cow on the Lane”, “Crow the Black beauty”, etc. But what is particularly
interesting is your poems on cats like “Ammini’s Lament”, “Poppy”, etc. which
demonstrate a very strong emotion. It appears as if you have a great fancy for
your pet cats as they appear in many of your anthologies. But there is a
pestering question I would like to ask you. Why didn’t you have written any
poems on Dogs so far? Is it that you are prejudiced?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: To be
frank, when I composed poems on cats they were in our house just like our
family members. Unfortunately I did not have a pet dog at that time. Now I have
one, named Rockey, a pomeranian white. Unlike dogs which are chained or locked
in kennel, cats can’t be jailed in our house or compound. Naturally they will
go to neighbour’s compound. Most of my cat poems are tragic because of the
brutality of my neighbours. As Shelley says, our sweetest songs are those that
tell of saddest thoughts, the tragic ends to my pet cats had to be composed
into poems as revenge to my cruel neighbors who could not be punished legally
or socially. I have composed poems on dogs, not on my own pets, but on the
plight of stray dogs as well as another on the love of dog to its dead
Your books are internationally acclaimed and many of the books published
provide the readers an entirely difference in thought. Especially the one in
collaboration with Dr Ramesh Chandra Mukhopadhyaya. How does it occur to you?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: I
follow a style of my own. Simplicity and clarity in expression, telling things
in a direct manner, use of free verse and more narrative poetry, innumerable
varieties of topics and themes, every poem bears a message or value—these are
my characteristic styles which attract the readers. I don’t want the readers to
be quibbled or confused with mind-blowing expressions or unnecessary imagery.
Another striking point of my poetry is that I have touched some issues and
topics which very few poets have done. Dr. Ramesh Chandra Mukhopadhyaya is the
best critic and interpreter of my poetry. His critical approach is entirely
different from other critics. He being a great philosopher is able to go deep
into the philosophical aspects of my poetry and interpret them in comparison
with Western and Eastern philosophies as well as classics in world literature.
Coming to the other aspects of your poems, it has been found that you write
more of free verse. Is there any specific reason for selecting free verse? And
your poems unlike some of your contemporaries lack imagery. Another aspect is
at times the poems sound too prosaic. Is there any purpose behind this, sir?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: To me
poetry is not just an expression of emotion but a medium to impart great
values and messages to the society. So the aspect of reason is more in my
poetry than imagination. When reason is expressed with very little imagination
the style becomes prosaic. I have used only free verse and tried to express
things in a direct manner. If a message or value can be imparted directly
without any imagery why should one harass the readers who have little time to
read in this busy, materialistic world? It is a fact that reading habit is
diminishing due to the influence of visual media and internet, and if at all
people have time to read anything, they will choose fiction, as is the trend of
the world. This being the reality, nobody wants to read a poem, particularly if
it is long, boring, time killing and obscure. This awareness is behind my
writing in simple, direct style.
Apart from your poetry collections, you have also published a collection of
short stories based on contemporary issues and incidents. It also stresses the
importance of humanism and compassion. What I strongly feel is that such
stories should be incorporated in the lessons for young adult learners. What is
your opinion about this, sir?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: My
maiden collection of short stories was
published by Authorspress, New Delhi in 2016. My second collection of stories
is under print in USA, by Modern History Press. As in my poetry, I have used
contemporary issues and topics in my short stories also. They deal with the
culture and way of life our country. The burning issues of the nation as well
as of the universe are portrayed in these stories. It is purely because of the
prejudice of curriculum committee and board of studies in our universities that
they do not include poems and short stories of the contemporary living writers
in our country. They prescribe still the foreign writers or those dead Indian
writers of the last century.
Your poetry collections have been translated to Gujarati, Hindi, and a couple
of poems into Tamil too. Can you share your views about translating to other
Dr. K. V. Dominic: True,
my poetry collections have been translated into Hindi and Gujarati and
the books have been published by reputed publishing houses in New Delhi and
Ahmedabad. The French translation of poems by the French translator and artist
Dominque Demiscault is under print in Paris. Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam
translations are going on and the books will come out by next year. The
translators have been supplied with my five poetry books in English and they
will choose poems for a translated book. It is not verbatim translation they
do, but transcreation. I would like to have translations of my poetry into as
many languages as possible. I have a mission in my writing and it is to impart
great values and messages to as many minds as I can.
Though Malayalam is your mother tongue, you never seem to write in your
language. Is there any specific reason for this?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: To be
frank, I have diffidence in writing poems in my mother tongue Malayalam. My
vocabulary and usage in Malayalam is not sufficient to create good poems or short
stories. Besides, there are innumerable good writers in Malayalam and if I try,
I fear, I will lose the good will and reputation I have as an English writer.
Barathi: Recently you went to
Nepal for an International Conference and you have been regularly participating
in SAARC literature festivals for many years. Could you elaborate on your
experiences in such events?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: I have
been fortunate to be invited for the International Conference on Mountain
Literature at Pokhara in Nepal. Again I have been invited regularly for the
South Asian (SAARC) Literature and Sufi festival in India. Many a times I have
been representing the South India as I have been the lone participant from the
South. My paper presentations and poems dealing with the culture of the South
have been warmly received and appreciated by the other participants.
You seem to be a socialist but when reading some poems it shows
Marxist-communist leanings. What is your stand on this, sir?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: I am
a socialist, not a Communist Marxist, and I am not against private
property. I like Marx and his philosophy which is ideal, but practically
thinking, a society now without any private property is unimaginable. My State
Kerala is one which has deep roots of communism and left ideologies. As a
political party Communist (Marxist) party has more followers than any other
political party in the State. At present Left Democratic parties are in power.
In my poems one can find my leaning towards left ideologies. I am always with
the poor, the downtrodden, the labour class, and the marginalized.
11. Barathi: You
have published a short story collection and at regular intervals you have been
publishing short stories in journals, which has an equal impact on the readers.
But you are identified as a poet than as a writer of fiction. Do you have any
idea to concentrate on fiction in future?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Since I
have composed innumerable poems on almost all topics and themes, new poems are
born now only occasionally. I would like to concentrate more on fiction, as you
have suggested. The problem is that I can’t write anything which doesn’t impart
any value or message.
Barathi: Recently, there has
been a tremendous increase in violence and harassment against women and girl
children and there are sad news about molestation of girl children. What is
your stand about this? As a writer what is your reaction to such cruel acts?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: My
reaction to such diabolic acts in our country has been recently
expressed with a short poem entitled “Had I been Born as a Dove” published
through Face Book. I am greatly shocked and pained by these unimaginable
atrocities. I have ended the poem thus:
How can I feel proud of my country?
How can humans become so mean?
Had I been born as a dove
I shouldn’t have felt so much of pangs
We don’t hear of such
shocking offences and tragedies in other countries. In my opinion such
molesters and murderers should be trialed soon and subjected to capital
punishment. Then only such tendencies can be controlled. Our democratic liberty
has degenerated to uncontrolled license.
12. Barathi: Now,
we live in a technocratic world, where writers have started publishing online,
especially on social media. Would you support this or the traditional way of
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Change
is inevitable and as science progresses writing and publication style is
compelled to change. Instead of writing on a paper, many writers are typing
their compositions now directly on the computer. Since print media is much
costlier than web media many writers prefer to publish their works through free
social media and online journals. Publication through social media has another
attraction. Since the work (short pieces of poem, short story, article etc.)
reaches the readers instantly, the writer will get the feedback within a few
days. The print media has no such attractions. But the case of a full book in
print and e-version is different. The beauty of a print book remaining ever
visible and immortal in the book shelves of houses and libraries can’t be
dreamed of by an e-book. That is the very reason why people prefer to publish
books in print version even though it is very costly.
How do you feel about the present generation writers?
And what is your suggestion for the budding
Dr. K. V. Dominic: With
regard to the use of English language, the present generation is not very
careful. Grammar mistakes can’t tolerated under any poetic license. I find many
such mistakes in novels, short stories and poems of the youngsters. With regard
to themes and topics they should concentrate more on the burning issues of the
country as well as that of the universe. At the same time they should be very
cautious not to wound or hurt others’ feelings.
Many of your poems sound philosophical, for instance, “Tyagi”, “Brahman’s
Leela”, “What is Karma?” etc. Besides, one could find a fine blend of Christian
theology and Hindu philosophy. Though a Christian, in particular, you seem to
be attracted towards the Advaita philosophy. What is the reaction of the
readers to this, sir?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Though
I am born as a Christian, I believe in no established religion. My
religion and philosophy is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Advaita philosophy seems to
me more reasonable than Dvaita. In fact Jesus Christ spoke of both Dvaita and
Advaita philosophies. When he spoke of God the Father in Heaven, it is Dvaita
and when he said that God is within you and your neighbours, it is Advaita.
Being an Indian, naturally I will have a fascination and love for my motherland
and its philosophies. So it is not surprising that I love Hinduism and
Buddhism. Moreover I find science and spirituality as twin sides of these philosophies.
My stand has been appreciated by my readers, both Eastern and Western. How it
appeals to the Western readers is reflected by the great reception and
appreciation of my books published in USA.
A final question to you sir, in some poems what readers observe is the
negativity, anti-socialism, religious fanaticism in the country as portrayed by
you. Though it is sad, don’t you think that writing on this subject will bring
a kind of bad impression about us?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: The
primary duty of a poet or writer is to correct his society. A poet or a writer
is a person above the ordinary man, in the sense that he is more sensitive to
things around him. I have composed my poems and short stories primarily for my
own countrymen to read. It is my belief that poets are the best educators to
impart great values and messages to the society since religious and political
readers have their own partisan interests. Ours is a democratic country and we
have innumerable problems and issues to be solved here. I can’t take a stand
“my country, right or wrong” in civil matters to be solved in the country
itself. Hence as a poet I will be forced to fight against and write on the evil
tendencies of the people, superstitions and religious fanaticism, communalism and
casteim, corruption done by the government etc. When negative aspects are much
more than the positive aspects, how can I glorify the positive things and
pretend to ignore the dark face of the country?
Many research articles and critical books have been published on your works and
the young researchers are interested on conducting research in your works. Can
you suggest some possible areas where your works to be researched on?
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Since I
have written several poems on various themes and topics, researchers can find
so many areas in them. They can do research on topics like social awareness,
social criticism, philosophy, patriotism, nature, environment, eco-criticism,
regional elements, ethics, multiculturalism, love for animals, war and
terrorism, issues of women and children, Indian aesthetics, trilateral relation
of God, man and nature, old age problems, initiative, leadership, loneliness
and alienation etc.
It is an immense pleasure to converse with you. Thank you for sharing your
thoughts and valuable time.
Dr. K. V. Dominic: Thanks
a lot dear Dr. Barathi for your sensible questions. God bless you!