Describing Chandresh’s work is no easy task, but I guess if I had to try, which I am doing now, I would say that it is a weird fusion of prose and poetry. While his art is very unique, I am not sure how I feel about it. It is definitely a lot to unpack. Chandresh oscillates between themes so rapidly that it is sometimes difficult to keep up especially if you have little knowledge about issues he mostly explores such as: hindu myths, and origin of creation stories. A familiar theme that shows up often in Chandresh’s stories is romance. While most Rwandan writers I know shy away from telling stories that explore the dark side of romance such as unrequited love and sex, Chandresh focuses mostly, if not solely, on these aspects of romance. As much as Chandresh creates hopeless love stories, he is able to make the reader empathize and root for the characters who are otherwise mostly unrelatable and unlikable in the lines of his poem: LET-TERTO-ON-E-SELF.
I am a Two To her, I am a double edged sword I was hurt too, stitching one cut would open two more. When I saw her I thought I had finally found someone to fix me I lifted her off the ground and rested her in my arms
Now she calls me a four Her eyes were closed, with her head on my chest Giggling at my every heartbeat She asked me what I was and described my personality from the scent of my sweat. “You smell like a forlorn vulture;put me down.” “Thank you, I’ll walk from here.” Then she left…..
I didn’t understand what a “two” or a “four” meant while I was reading this poem( which is a sequel to another poem), but I appreciated the relevance of the themes presented in that poem. Invulnerability( which is the defence mechanism the narrator in the poem uses to cope with his hurt) is increasing at alarming speeds now that social media and not personal contact, is the most widespread method of communication. Another interesting aspect of Chandresh’s work is his use of sexually explicit language( for Rwandan standards). Seriously, I am still in shock! Chandresh’s descriptions of intimate relationships between the main characters are not self conscious and are so unapologetic that it makes it hard not to see how necessary they are, inevitable even. However, it is not only his fluid language that makes these descriptions acceptable, but the fact that the intensity of forbidden love between humans and divine beings is seen through their brief passionate stolen moments. These lines demonstrate this fact:
His legendary fight for a woman lasted seven years and seven weeks. Due to his war crimes, madness, and falling in love with a human, Chandresh was banished from his constellation by the gods.
When the lust for him returned, the girl would leave her door open at two in the morning, line up candles in the middle of the door leading him to her bedroom and the last candle between her legs and wait for him to make love to her….
When I read Chandresh’s first poem, I was reminded of Justin Timberlake’s song “Cry Me A River”, in that the poem hinted at doom and irreparable damage in all its sequels. While, I am generally an optimistic person who would have stopped reading after the first one, Chandresh’s a genius when it comes to creating characters who are simultaneously human and inhumane and that’s what draws them to the reader so powerfully. If you are looking for something different and nuanced in Rwandan literature, give his work a shot. His poetry can be found on his website Chandresh401.com and his instagram account @Chandresh401.