Conversation with Dr. K. V. Dominic

Dr. S. Barathi

(Published originally in the book A Conversation with Contemporary Indian English Poets, edited by Dr. S. Barathi and published by Book Leaf Publishing, September 2023, pp. 67-84.)

1. Barathi: 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.

2. Barathi: 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.   

3. Barathi: 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.     

4. Barathi: 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 master.   

5. Barathi: 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.

6. Barathi: 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.    

7. Barathi: 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.   

8. Barathi: 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 languages?

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.

9. Barathi: 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.

10. Barathi: 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 publishing?

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. 

13. Barathi: How do you feel about the present generation writers?

   And what is your suggestion for the budding poets/writers?

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.

14. Barathi: 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.

15. Barathi: 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?

16. Barathi: 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.

17. Barathi: 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!

Dr Barathi Srinivasan is an Assistant Professor of English at Srinivasa Ramanujan Centre, SASTRA Deemed to be University, Kumbakonam, India. Her poems are widely anthologized in books and international journals. She has translated one novel, two short story collections, and two poetry anthologies into Tamil language. Email:


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