Monday, November 9, 2015

Scott Bryson reviews Jennifer Kronovet’s CASE STUDY: WITH (2015) in Broken Pencil #69

The majority of the prose poems in this collection document – in a decidedly clinical tone – time spent observing a child: “With the Boy, in the House;” “With the Boy, Outside;” “With the Boy, Inside the Museum.” Only near the end of Case Study: With do we come to learn for certain that the boy is Jennifer Kronovet’s son.
            Ambiguity regarding the child’s identity is planted early. From page one, he’s referred to only as “The Boy,” and when Kronovet eventually calls him “my son,” it seems almost like a slip-up – as if the integrity of the case study has been compromised by Kronovet’s momentary inability to maintain an impartial distance as she studies her test subject.
            Case Study: With is more that simple observation; it take a stab at drawing insights from a complex natural system. Kronovet is critically examining a life spent with someone who’s perched on the cusp of grasping speech (“a reckoner of words”) She juxtaposes her anecdotes with explorations of clinical terminology and research into the study of language (including the famous case of a feral child in France) that illuminates the ways in which language develops in a person. Her case study is also sprinkled with poetic hypotheses that illustrate the ways in which our words define us and our relationships: “We use words like a tree uses light.”
            Kronovet, in adopting the role of scientist, necessarily comes off as detached and callous, and it’s commendable – given the subject matter – that she’s able to maintain that tone throughout her case study. Slipping into an expected voice might have ruined what is a consistently pensive and heady read.

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