- V. Dominic is born and brought up in a traditional Christian family. Many of his poems do reflect Jesus’ values and Gospel messages. The qualities of the Kingdom of God, preached by Jesus, are expressed in many of Dominic’s poems. Hence Dominic may be identified as a Christian Poet. But as Dr Ramesh Chadra Mukhopadhyaya writes in the FOREWORD to the 6th collection of Dominic’s poems entitled ‘Cataracts of Compassion’, “He has not composed hymns in praise of God or in praise of love. He has not ventured in hymnal rapture or triumphal chant”. So I prefer to call Dominic a humanist poet.
All the same, here we shall look at Dominic’s poems both from humanistic and Christian perspectives. Besides, I believe that what is genuinely humanist is very much Christian and vice versa. As a prolific writer Dominic has published six anthologies of poems. They are 1) Winged Reason, 2) Write Son, Write, 3) Multicultural Symphony, 4) Contemporary Concerns and Beyond, 5) K V Dominic: Essential Readings and Study Guide and 6) Cataracts of Compassion.
As Dominic has said, he started late at the age of 48 years to write poems. But his poems reveal that his past life was a sort of preparation for his writing poems and for his writing career. Jesus had about 30 years of his hidden life behind him when he started his public ministry as an itinerant preacher. Similarly I believe that Dominic as a student of English literature and later as a learned professor and scholar has spent much time in studying, reflecting, observing and reasoning about his own experiences and about the life around him. So we see that his values of life around him and his poetical sensitivities were formed over long years of his past life as well as the current happenings.
Jesus began his public mission telling the people, his fellow Jews, that “The Kingdom of God is near “(Mark 1: 15). Revealing his Mission Jesus quoted from the book of Prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has chosen me to bring
good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of the sight to the blind’
to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come
when the Lord will save his people” (Luke 4: 18-19).
We know that Jesus first lived as the son of a carpenter and then as a carpenter in Nazareth village. Then he started his three-year long public life telling people that God is our Father and that he loves and cares for all his children. His life and message of good news were expressed in both in words and in concrete actions.
Jesus gave the sum and substance of his life and message in two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mathew 22: 37-39).
Evangelist Mathew has summarized Jesus’ life and mission saying, “Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sicknesses” (Mathew 4: 23). Jesus’ life and message cover anything and everything on earth. Similarly going through the anthologies of Dominic we see that Dominic’s poems cover a wide variety of topics and subjects. His poetic sensibilities embrace both the animate and inanimate world. But his poems mostly revolve around human beings and their concerns.
In the PREFACE of his first collection of poems Dominic has acknowledged that, “The major theme of my poetry is the eternal relationship between Man, Nature and God. In the same PREFACE he further says that his views of life are shaped by “Christ, Vivekanand, Marx, Darwin, Shree Narayana, Said, Fanon, Gandhi, Nehru, Mother Teresa, Baba Amte, Salim Ali, Steve Irwin”. We know that most of these eminent personalities are greatly influenced by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And as the French would say, Christ has been a Humanist par excellence.
As Christian and humanistic poet Dominic says that he feels responsible to his own conscience as well as to all human and non-human beings. This is clearly seen in all the six anthologies of Dominic. For instance, his love for fellow human beings is revealed in the first two obituary poems entitled ‘In Memoriam: George Joson’ and ‘Long Live E. K. Nayanar’.
The two poems respectively proclaim the poets’ love and admiration for his neighbour Joson and for the thrice (Communist) Chief Minister of Kerala, E. K. Nayanar. In the first obituary Dominic feels terribly at the death of his friend and yet with Christian faith bows to the inevitability of death:
“Your absence, everywhere is haunting
we find it hard
to console and reconcile
with the inevitable!
We are all
Bound by His will
to be here
or to be away.”
In a similar vein the poet expresses his love and appreciation for the dearest CM Nayanar:
“You were a true Communist;
a comrade to the core of your being,
a rare species,
compassion and love
an epitome of Socialism.
Yet did give due respect and valued
those even who differed with you.”
Dominic is deadly against terrorism and war as they are against love and concern. When President Bush sent USA army to Iraq, thousands died in the war in that country. The poet’s imagination and sense of justice soar high in the poem ‘A Blissful Voyage’ in ‘Winged Reason’:
“I wish I had the claws of a vulture
to fetch the skeletons from Iraq
and build a bone-palace
to imprison Bush in it.”
Dominic has many poems expressing his Christian faith and Jesus’ Kingdom values of love and service, justice and equality, compassion and kindness. The poem entitled ‘For the Glory of God’ in his anthology ‘Write Son, Write’ is a beautiful example of love and service. The poem based on the true story of two women: An old abandoned woman Chellamma Antharjanam and a Muslim woman Resiya Beebi with her husband and 4 kids.
Resiya sees the old woman on a railway track waiting for a few minutes to end her life under a speeding train. At the nick of time Resiya drags the elderly woman and takes her home. Chellamma being a vegetarian Brahmin Resiya takes her to an old age home and cares for her there. Then, respecting the old woman’s wish to die in her own land, Resiya buys a small plot of land and builds a hut for Chellamma and provides provisions for her regularly. Let me quote from the poem:
“Resiya spends for the food
which Chellamma cooks and eats.
Ten long years have passed
since heaven thus exhibits here
an exquisite model of
Here we can recognize in the Muslim woman Resiya the personification of genuine Christian (and humanistic) values of love and service. May her tribe increase.
The poem ‘Sister Mercy’ in the same Anthology is a beautiful example of living kingdom values of justice and equality. Dominic portrays the life of Dayabai alias Sr Mercy dedicated to the values of equality and justice.
“Devoted life for the tribal;
a lone fighter for their rights;
fought against slavery;
fought against girls’ trade.
Hunted by the police;
torture in barracks;
took LLB for self pleading.
“Dayabai shows by life
that path of Karma is
nobler than other paths;
serving God in human form
is more rewarding than
serving Him in the abstract terms.”
While fighting for justice and equality in the homes and in the society Dayabai’s own devoted life as a social activist is a lived example of compassion and kindness. I am happy to see that Dayabai’s service to humanity has been acknowledge and appreciated. So the poet says:
“Awards and honours
A characteristic virtue of Jesus is his compassion for the poor and the suffering people. This virtue of compassion is present and is eloquently expressed in many poems by Dominic. His compassion and kindness is not limited to fellow human beings; but his compassion embraces both the animate and inanimate world of the entire creation.
Dominic’s compassion and kindness finds poetical expression not only about the poor and the suffering people in India but also his lyrics of compassion go beyond India to wherever there are injustice, hunger, famine and calamities of war. For instance, the poem ‘Hunger’s Call’ in ‘Write Son, Write’ portrays the poet’s compassion for the suffering and famished people of Zimbabwe;
“A startling news with
photos from Zimbabwe.
Carcass of a wild elephant
consumed in ninety minutes!
Not by countless vultures
but by avid, famished
men and women and children.
Even the Skelton was axed
To support sinking life with soup.”
Dominic’s compassionate heart grieves even thinking of the future calamities. While the President, Defense Minister, High Officials and other VIPs proudly watch the demonstrations and rejoice in the ‘Fire Power’ of the Indian Air Force with great admiration at Pokhran, the poet looks ahead and foresees the tragic consequences:
But for me a horrible sight.
The dropping of each missile,
an explosion in my heart.
My mind can’t conciliate
though only a parade.
These aircrafts have been built,
these missiles have been made
not for just a display.
One day or the other
my sisters and brothers
in Pakistan and China
will be burnt with missiles.”
We can also see the Dominic’s compassion and sympathetic sensibilities expressed at the end of the same poem praying for the rulers for love and concern for the famished dying millions of poor people:
“God, kindle love
in the minds of all rulers.
Had they spent those billions
to feed millions’ hungry mouths,
could save several millions
dying famish year after year.”
The Christian vision of life embraces anything and everything in the universe because the Christians believe that God created everything in love. Many people do not understand it. So they like a frog in a well say, for instance, that the Pope who is the Spiritual head of the Catholic Church should limit himself to religious matters and not speak about ‘worldly’ matters. But Pope Francis’ words and deeds go much beyond the Christian and religious matters. The whole world welcomes his messages in life and words!
Often Pope Francis’ leadership and messages are specifically addressed to all the people of good will. Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’” on caring for our mother earth is a telling example. All people of good will have welcomed it as a comprehensive and timely document on environmental problems facing the earth. The boundaries of religions, races and cultures have not come on the way of people studying and appreciating “Laudato Si’” as a landmark document concerning all people.
We can see this Christian world vision in all the six anthologies of K.V. Dominic. There are no topics or subjects which are ‘untouchable’ or foreign to Dominic. As a rationalist Christian he has not refrained even from criticizing fellow Christians and Church authorities. He is fearless in expressing his personal views, which others may not agree with him. In the PREFACE of his first anthology ‘Winged Reason’ he says, “As a poet, I am responsible to my own conscience and I want to convey an emotion or a message often through social criticism.”
Let me conclude this essay with final two quotes from Dominic. The first quote from his poem ‘A Blissful Voyage’ in ‘Winged Reason’ expresses Dominic’s advocacy of humanism:
“If I could fly like an angel,
would plead all prophets
to inspire and instill humanism
in millions’ communal minds.”
The second quotation from his poem ‘Lal Salaam to Labour’ is also taken from ‘Winged Reason’. The poem speaks about the Christian virtue of justice in remunerating fair wages to labourers:
“Let us not be unjust
when for we can’t do what they do.
Give them at least their due;
the more we give, the more we get;
Put charity in humanity
A spiritual bliss that never dies.”
- V. Dominic’s verses like these prove what Voltaire said: “One merit of poetry few persons will deny; it says more and in few words”.
Dominic, K. V. Winged Reason, Delhi: Authorspress, 2010.
—————– . Write Son, Write, Delhi: GNOSIS, 2011.
Good News Bible, Bible Societies, Harper Collins, 1976.
Mukhopadhyaya, Ramesh Chandra. Foreward. Cataracts of Compassion. By K V Dominic, Authorspress, 2017, pp.7-8.
Paul, Fr Varghese, SJ. What Does Jesus Means to You and Me? Catholic Information Service Society, Ahmedabad, 2013
Changed on: 01-10-2019
Next Change: 16-10-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019