Postcolonial Text, Vol 10, No 3 & 4 (2015)

Notes on a Postcolonial Sri Lankan Tamil Diasporic Aesthetic: Reading Cheran Rudramoorthy’s Poetry

Vasugi Kailasam


This paper explores the place of aesthetic form in postcolonial literature through the poetry of Sri Lankan Canadian Tamil poet, Cheran Rudramoorthy from two of his recently translated poetry collections: The Second Sunrise (2012) by Lakshmi Holmstrom and Sascha Ebeling and You Will Not Turn Away (2011) by Chelva Kanaganayakam. In Tamil popular perception, Cheran’s poetic oeuvre, which has spanned thirty years, is read as a witness to the civil war in Sri Lanka.

In this analysis, I depart from this dominant mode of literary criticism and attempt to locate alternative explorations of diasporic experience in Cheran’s later poetry. Through a close reading of poems from these collections, I argue that Cheran’s later poetry that is shaped out of his Canadian diasporic experience allows for the emergence of a new Tamil poetic grammar and aesthetic form. I argue that this migrant, poetic aesthetic serves a twofold purpose. First, this poetic grammar allows for the repositioning of the landscapes of Canada and Sri Lanka to invoke a new vocabulary of the diaspora that unsettles the creation of togetherness or community as necessary prerequisites of the diasporic experience. Secondly, through an extension and reimagination of an available Tamil literary heritage, Cheran’s poetry rehearses a vocabulary of reconciliation for war-torn Sri Lanka that signals to the idea of the post-national, through aesthetic form. Finally, through the assessment of Cheran’s later poetry, this paper questions the place of the literary aesthetic in postcolonial vernacular literature and examines the impact of migration in the formation of modern, postcolonial Tamil subjectivities.