Where the word becomes flesh, where reason is dazzled and magic reigns supreme: in that world delves Rajkumar. Sensuous and ferocious, the poetry of Rajkumar cracks open a world that offers the modern reader stunning glimpses into a magic-drenched, living dalit history. Born into a traditional shaman community in a border town between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Rajkumar revels in his ability to claim disparate discourses as his poetic subjects. His angry goddesses of unreason and excessive emotion embody unfettered power, independence and freedom—elements excised from the daily life of the dalit.
Anushiya Ramaswamy, through her inspired translations, and in an essay that locates Rajkumar’s insurrections in a global literary context, shows how the poet is not writing for inclusion into a centre: he has re-drawn the lines in such a way that the centre itself is meaningless. The centre has the right of it to fear the Other, the Mohini, the darkness, the Isakki, the mother with her breasts full of the poisonous essence, for
We who cannot experience
Link hands and walk
With our Jungle Gods.
N.D. Rajkumar has published four volumes of poetry in Tamil. He works as a daily wage labourer in the Railway Mail Service in Nagercoil.
Anushiya Ramaswamy teaches at the Department of English, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, US.
‘Powerful liminalities, threshold moments of transit and transformation, are at play in the poems of N.D. Rajkumar’Biblio: A Review of Books
‘As a member of the kaniyar caste among the dalits in Tamil Nadu, Rajkumar uses the shamanistic, magical and supernatural, with which the kaniyars are associated, to fashion an aesthetic that can seem anarchic and is certainly destabilising in its effects on the reader’—DNA, Mumbai