Nikita Parik’s ‘Diacritics of Desire’

Book Review by Gopal Lahiri

Painting Wordlight
Poetry is one of the most powerful instruments for our survival and represents itself as a complete little universe where language is all important, charging with emotion and intelligence. ‘Diacritics of Desires’. the debut collection of poems by Nikita Parik, offers profound perspectives of the language on the poetic canvas and look directly at the warmth in life, leaning forward into a trough of light, a new sense of optimism. Striking a balance between realism and artifice is an arduous task but here word sketches are never forced, the ruse always grounded in feeling and understanding.

Her writing is a revelation of lightness and agility. That she manages to keep her facility for language during a period where it often disappears is a miracle. With elegant wordplay, rolling energy and intense sensitivity, this collection tracks the path of nostalgia and cultural footprint, dream and desire.

This young poet’s voice is sharp, high-pitched at times, but her words are all
about expansion – of heart, soul and emotive space. penning zippy verse that reflects the current moment. While it sometimes lacks the inventive landscape, it feels as if she’s cracking the door of magical strangeness a little broader with certain categories of words. It’s sound and images are astounding.

‘Diacritics of Desires’ is divided into two sections, Semantics of longing and
Deixis of the Soul. Never falling in platitudes, her finely wrought and impressively moving poems, face the world head-on depicting ‘the more rooted emotions occupying the vowel-chasm between the soul and the soil.’

What is fascinating about this collection is Nikita’s curiosity about the pure
spontaneity of life. The most impressive poems are about what happens when the mind unfastens itself and move on in a seamless manner browsing over plenty of historical ground and cultural signpost. A typical Nikita poem decorates a traditional formal structure with playfulness of words like ‘thought-alligator’, ‘alveolar sound’, ‘galactic pupils’ admixed with sprinklings of local language ‘kulhads’, ‘gaach tawla’, ‘maidan’ etc. She
cultivates a rare voice with a wide tonal range to get her points across on the sly in a poetic platform.

Keki.N. Daruwalla has rightly pointed out.’ Gloom has not yet cast its dismal
shadow on her verse. It comes across to me like a gust of breeze smeared with the fragrance of spring flowers.’

‘No, not of the body but of the mind
I am writing on the mellowed leaves,
Feel the burning sensation
I can meet you in dreams though.’ (Letters To The Self)’.

Her delicately woven poems powerfully connect us to her linguistic cosmos, her phonetic maze. She has an attentive ear and are techniques are usually winning. Smart and incisive, this poem is brilliantly sure of itself and the surround it represents.

Unlike you, my unphaliic
language diffuses
love evenly all over
the body rather than being
fixated on singularities’ (The Eye of Language’).

In Sanjeev Sethi’s words, ‘Her poems lisp with nervous energy caching myriad subtexts. Diacritics of Desires heralds the arrival of assured, textured voice which in days to come will invoke many more strains.’

The following poem reflects an intelligent take down, almost peeling like carroty skin, of her talent. It has taken us truly on a metaphorical ride, with its reference to the ‘icy moon over Pushkar’s Ink-spilled skies’.

‘Summers in sun-stung Thar crumple
Into an icy moon over Pushkar’s Ink-spilled
Skies, then transmorph into the stillness of
Aravalli extensions; Papa, you are the anchor
To this soul’s histories and geographies.’ (Orange Origami)

Sometimes Nikita digs deep and scoops the ‘last mazuma’. She has a way of using what could be mundane subjects in an unusual way. In ‘Syntax of Thieving’ she combines the texture of poetry and burglary and handles the theme with a delicate surrealism. Her signature quirkiness is here ‘an exploit in burglary’, but matches to a witty if not more stately tone.

This poem is an exercise in shop-
Lifting. It extols the personal
without permission. See how
the enjambments display
lines of your laughter. These
verses are an exploit in burglary. (Syntax of Thieving)

Sanjukta Dasgupta, in her Foreword has mentioned, ‘Nikita Parik’s poems will be appreciated by informed readers of poetry as her poems touch the hearts and minds of the readers due to her remarkable ability to infuse a subtle playfulness of words with multi-layered perspectives and poignancies.’ What is all the more remarkable is that she is neither sentimental nor dreary nor predictable in her poems.

‘our rituals have their own
Grammar. The language

of longing invokes a charm
and spell they call poetry (Hexed)

The poet abandons the familial love, applying a metaphysics of observation to aesthetics of feeling and absorption. Poetry, it seems, offers here a means to engage with language and revels in more intricate phonic play. She writes out of an assertive curiosity but strangeness in her word play loses out to single- mindedness at times.

‘This waiting is the echo of silent, hot
venom in neuron synapses, it seethes

and stings unreliably. This waiting is
a thought-alligator that bites off my
tongue and feeds on my language in.’(Apraxia)

Here is a poet whose thumbprint is so unmistakable, so strikingly rich that her poetic investigation requires no background information to appreciate. Sometimes the readers wonder whether her poetic texture is knowingly constructed or unconsciously buried in her ambitious style.

on the cave of your
anatomy; my gaze, intangible,
lost in your
well-written, galactic pupils;’. (Afterglow)

What strikes me most in her write, is the stimulus and the unconditional flow in reshaping our life. There is a belief that we build ourselves on soul searching and so a path grows. For all its exuberance, there is something deceptively serious in tone.

‘every time my mother speaks Odiya, she exposes me
to a history-latent, unexplored- and in its lilts
I imagine the lulls of a sleeping sea,
The sounds- all its phones and morphs-‘. (My Mother Speaks Odiya).

Such expressions- tender, nuanced, alert and finally unillusioned- propel all of Nikita’s best poems. Not chiselled to stone, her lines still stand out for their craftmanship and prepares us for a shift toward a ‘history-latent’ time and space. Lines and sentences go on as they please rather impulsively and the poet employs a diverse mix of styles and techniques to achieve the objectives.

Into its navel. Zarin
Smears the Golden
In a Persian irony of

Naming. The pigmented
Brush is soused in
Cyan liquid before it. (The Thirsting Hollow)

Too often her poems inform us that her language shines, that poetry refreshes, that nature is amazingly magical. Unintimated by elders’ opinions, she can sound enthused and precious, sincerely animated or simply a bundle of progressing vigor, ‘something which traverses the spectrum of varied emotion, sometimes with a linguistic looking-glass’.

In my native language, we have
mothers-mothering being more of an
aesthetic. (Mothering)

If the poem’s staple is to involve with a sense of how effects could be or should be, it’s not in the usual design. The focus is on the extraordinary sound of their communications, and on imagining. The poet admits, ‘Diacritical marks, when attached to a letter, serve to change the sound value of that letter, and by logical extension the word.’

It is the frankness of the book that makes it such a great attempt to explore this wonderful pathway. Her poems will earn praise for its wordplay and its
elegance and intimacy in revealing the surrounds.

Emily Dickinson once remarked’ I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.’ Nikita uses ‘this shining words’ with remarkable skill. She seems to be having a great time, to be taking pleasure in her poetic skill and her exuberance is contagious even when her readers are in low key mood.

The cover page sprinkles in amazing observations. The book is a must for every bookshelf as it holds it all together till the end.

Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based poet, critic, editor and translator with 18 books published- mostly solo, A few joint! He has guest edited Setu’ an online journal. His work has been published worldwide!  

Published by
Hawakal Publishers
185, Kali Temple Road, Nimta
Kolkata – 700049, India
Price- INR 299


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