Chandramohan S, English Dalit poet who hails from Thiruvananthapuram has been selected to be a part of the prestigiousÂ International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. The International Writing Program (IWP) is a writing residency for international artists in Iowa City, Iowa.Â Since its inception in 1967, the IWP has hosted over 1,400 emerging and established poets, novelists, dramatists, essayists, and journalists from more than 130 countries. Its primary goal is to introduce talented writers to the writing community at the University of Iowa and to provide the writers a period of optimal conditions for their creative work.
The selection to the program has made the poet happy as well as now responsible regarding what he says. He is of the opinion that, though Dalit-BahujansÂ make up a large share of the population, there arenâ€™t many who write literature in the English language. He believes that the Dalit-Bahujans are at the cusp of a big change and more and more voices such as his are being registered these days.
“Every poem or a short story is a contribution to â€œrealityâ€- perceived from a perspective of opposing the current fascist saffron regime. An opportunity such as being an IWP fellow at the University of Iowa for a Dalit poet writing in English- itâ€™s a big opportunity to voice our dissent.” said Chandramohan to TWJ.
Chandramohan wants to be a caste provocateur, by asserting his identity as an Indian English Dalit poet. “A lot of Indian English poetry is too elitist, upper classist, upper casteist and caters to the urban milieu. My very existence is a breaking of a glass ceiling and may provoke someone to think and identify their slot in the ‘ascending scale of reverence and descending scale of contempt’,” says Chandramohan.
His identity as aâ€œDalit poet writing in Englishâ€ has provoked many and has helped him elude the perceived sense of â€œpolitical pasteurisationâ€ which in his opinion, plagues Indian English Poetry. He feels that a lot of themes which the Indian English poets refuse to bring into their poems have been taken by him.
“I usually feel like waging a lone battle against the establishment who breathe down my neck insisting that caste discrimination is long gone and refuse to render caste as a contemporary category. My poems argue towards a reality where caste shape-shifts itself as per the need of the time and refuses to go away in the era of social media.” He added.
Chandra Mohan started writing Poetry in 2013, which is not so long ago. Even though it has only been five years, he had already read quite a bit of poetry written in the English language. His inspiration came when he chanced upon a poem by Tomas Transtromer at a local library.Poets K Siva Reddy(Telugu) Arun Kolatkar(Marathi-English), Soumitra Mohan(Hindi), Namdeo Dhasal(Marathi), Jibananda Das( Bengali) , Kotiganahalli Ramiah(Kannada) etc have alsoenriched his sensibility as a poet. Chandramohan likesÂ K Satchidanandan the most among poets in Malayalam language. According to him, “SatchidanandhanÂ embodies a soul â€“deeply political with a very large cache of images and themes â€“like no other poet writing in India”.
Chandramohan is currently working on a book-length poem on the leitmotiv of translation which is titled â€œLOVE after BABELâ€ In the poem, he is trying to weave a number of narratives onto the vertebrae of translation- like predatory language empires, dilemma of translators, limits on expression of sexual-love across tongues, asymmetry in power during interrogations, the sections of the population excluded from worlds build around the spines of languages etc.He has also been collecting facts and myths centred around the legendary Black and Dalit Panthers and is all set to publish a poetry volume titled â€œLearning from the Panthersâ€.
“I see myself as a tiny speck in the huge volume of very intense literature produced by Dalit Bahujans- but since I write in English I may be able to reach a much larger audience and thereby effective dent the discourse around caste and other indices of social inequality.I dream of composing a south Asian epic of retrieving our souls before the advent of the brahminical era,” says Chandramohan.