Book Review: #FDD017 (Golden) by Rishika Aggarwal

A Three Drops Review

#FDD017 (Golden) by Rishika Aggarwal

[Reviewed by Steve Nash]

Rikisha Aggarwal’s #FDD017 (Golden) is a slim volume of fifteen brief enquiries to Greek mythological divinities. It’s quirky, drizzled with knowing humour, and beneath the intricate surface of the text runs a subtly poignant filament.

#FDD017 (Golden) is a carefully worded series of questions that are both epigrammatic and aphoristic; each one focusing on a particular aspect of the chosen classical figure’s character or history. In ‘Tell Me How To Water Golden Apples’ Eros is asked:

‘Which was more golden
Chaos, or the clear-tongued truth?’

Despite the diversity of the cast of characters here, there is a unifying thread of imagery and inference that is delicately woven through the cycle. The gold of chaos or truth, gives way to the sun-kissed gold of Aphrodite, and later the gold wings ever trapped in Pandora’s box:

‘Doom girl, unbreaking. When you slammed the jar close, with gold
still inside &…& when you heard Zeus screaming a broken conspiracy
across an eternity
did you laugh?’

There’s more to the unity than the golden thread though. Also stitching the pamphlet together is an examination of that paradoxically most basic and eternal query – What is it to be human? Here the mundane is brought into question against the bewildering hessian backdrop of the inscrutable gods. The everyday is made uncanny and questions of our most basic instincts are turned into fantastic treatises on the nature of possibility. Should we sit or stand, becomes a question of whether we should avail ourselves of our hidden wings and take flight.

Even myths so familiar to us through the repeated poetic rewritings they have endured are treated nimbly, such as the Persephone story:

‘When you felt magic spark gold, curling bird-limbs green, teaching a
of beauty, tell me, did you cry? Or did your laughter
shake the bones / of the earth?’

In terms of structure, there are some deft line breaks, creating an intricate weaving of dual meanings, though there are occasional examples which chime of being somewhat arbitrary. Often in poetry that takes such classical themes as a catalyst, language falls to archaism, and in lesser hands the richly evocative, but fragile speech here may be at risk of the same. In Aggarwal’s capable hands though, there is no such threat. There is a natural ear for rhythm and the cadence of the human voice which buoys these aphoristic musings.

#FDD017 (Golden) is a beautiful artefact that demonstrates great dexterity in handling dense narratives and familiar characters. The only major downside is that it’s so short, but fortunately these delicate, intelligent verses are more than up to the task of bearing the burden of repeated readings.

#FDD017 (Golden) is available to buy here.

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