Book Review: Diacritics of Desire

Book Review by: Aakriti Kuntal


Diacritics of Desire
Genre: Poetry
Author: Nikita Parik
Pages: 78
ISBN-13: 978-938788356
Price: ₹ 299; $8.99
Publishers: Hawakal Publishers

Nikita Parik's debut book does what most don't; use language to untangle language. Nikita slowly undresses her linguistic minds, parting the threads and revealing to us in a myriad of flavors, images, sounds, and symbols, a juxtaposition of longing and desires. The amalgamation of linguistic strains with a dexterous and elegant command gives us what we may call a repertoire of stunning poems.

Aakriti Kuntal
Diacritics of Desire comes in two parts, Semantics of Longing and Deixis of the Soil. It is no surprise then that we are flattered with rather innovative titles. Nikita invents a new class of language with her almost arithmetic cellular pods– plastic, cellophane, uniquely solid and compact with a transparent gauze. The title of the first poem 'Phonetic Maze' is rather apt for what follows, burrows and lanes of longing woven into syllables and dialects, lisp and vowels, a stretched stutter and poised control.

'Semantics of Longing' embroiders on our skin, dreamy narratives of love. She does what poets do, love feverishly to the point of worship. Consider the lines…

‘If we/are indeed the universe experiencing/ itself, it is safe to say your molten/ black gaze contains universes of universes that explode star stuff/ whenever they meet the fulminating/ thunders in mine,’

Poet: Nikita Parik
When not praising her lover in adoration she is breathing in her minty experiences. A stark sense of nostalgia, defining beauty and a hint of melancholy in them. She writes…

‘On no-heartbeat-days as these, /we’d just lie here, next to/our aborted nothingness, /watching their crimson corpses decay, /and bleedbleedbleed it out/in the name of creativity.’

Some poems like Diacritics of Desire and First Names Matter revel in an alternate realm of linguistics, symbols and syllables, le virguell and le cedille', swaying us into a parallel dimension of thought. Nikita masterfully carries us into her mind palace without letting us lose sense of the meaning that penetrates her poems.

‘Like Gulzar and so many/others, I want to write/a poem on that precise/moment when one falls in/love with their first names for/the first time as I/imagine the syllables/forming in your mouth-/the nasal n rushing into/the voiceless velar stop,/both holding on to the long ē/that shapes your lips into the ghost of a smile,’

In Deixis of the Soil, Nikita wanders in eternal lands, brown, pink, sun-soaked and vareigated. She is a kindred spirit exploring her various alignments, her constituents, her identities, her selves rooted to places by origin and by habits, her bodies wandering in a quest that seeks no answers, only solace.

‘It is okay to spoon a mother tongue after/twenty-one years of existence-/to be awkward in a language that ougth to be/ yours, but feel familiarly distant -the retroflex sounds/getting stuck in your throat. / It is okay as long as the nasal ‘M’ in their/ ‘Padharo ‘M’hare Des’ quietly morphs into/an alveolar ‘T’, and their personal pronouns/warmly becomes yours.’

We find ourselves immersed in sensual experiences, aromas diffused above paper, words we can smell, taste, touch– homemade delicacies, grandma's verandah, sangria and phali. Words that enter our body and startle all our palates. Perhaps, one of the finest portrayals of nostalgia one can come across.

However, Nikita does not end there. She adds a piquant streak to the entire book with her poems like Living Room and Kitchen. Here, she evokes the most delicate senses, giving us a glimpse into the sensuality of everyday things, a mole, a garden, an evening of cooking and a sweat-soaked dance.


Nikita's writing is fine, dictated, carefully sharpened into blossoms meanwhile rooted in an array of Indian joys and condiments. Her poems are attics and multi-storey buildings built upon the foundation of love, longing, identity, and desire, growing perpetually into a stack. A stack of poems built with arches and tangents from the world of linguistics. It is evident that she perceives the world in these symbols and while reading the book we all will borrow this beautiful sense from her.


Reviewer's Bio: Aakriti Kuntal, aged 26, is a poet and writer from Gurugram, India. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Selcouth Station, The Hindu, Madras Courier, Pangolin Review, Blue Nib, and Visual Verse among others. She was awarded the Reuel International Prize 2017 for poetry and was a finalist for the RL Poetry Award 2018.

Poet's Bio: Nikita Parik, 26, currently works as the Assistant Editor of Ethos Literary Journal. She holds an MA in Linguistics, an MA in English, and an Advanced Diploma of three years in French studies. Her works have appeared/are forthcoming in The Bombay Literary Magazine, The Metaworker, The Commonline Journal, Shot Glass Journal, Open Road Review Literary Journal, Ann Arbor Review: An International Journal of Poetry, and so on. Her debut book of poetry, Diacritics of Desire, was published by Hawakal publishers in April 2019.

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