Case Study: With by Jennifer Kronovet (above/ground press, 2015)
Parenthood isn’t often described as a rabbit hole but it’s arguably the most transformative, permanent adventure humans take. It’s also among the most fetishized, with multi-coloured and peer-pressured gadgets — geared towards each month of your newborn’s development, no less — obfuscating the raw joy and fear of having a newborn. Case Study: With digs to the root of parenthood, disregarding cultural and capitalist dogma, traditional expressions of preciousness and even the mother-baby dynamic. For Jennifer Kronovet, parenthood is an anthropological account of communication being forged from the unknown.
These prose poems ponder the actualization of a to b communication (as depicted on the cover) but delve further into the instinct and sustenance of what goes unspoken. There, at the purest state of humanity, language reveals itself as a corruption.
Wrong made the grammar flesh. Grammar as the right of
the brain to wrong meaning into patterns. Grammar: The
smell of a fourth dimension. The verb form of
proliferation. The second tallest hill. The fence that
became incorporated into the bark. It’s resilient as I bash it
against the stones. It fits us to the rules that rule what can
fit as we rule them.
This excerpt from the poem “Jean Berko Gleason” got me thinking about how a prescribed approach to communication imposes limitations on a child’s intuitive faculties. Well aware that lessons on syntax and grammar wait on the horizon, Kronovet makes it a parental duty to reinforce a bond that makes “words as milk so the mind survives on language”. The bulk of this chapbook analyzes small, expressive surprises between mother and son — e.g. instinctually pointing at birds before realizing it, imitating sounds — and yet Case Study: With is as much about stillness, the awareness that babies know and parents rediscover.
With the Boy, with the Book
The man loves the boat.
I didn’t have to make that sentence up. It exists the way all
transportation does. He says, more go more self, and I
translate that into the talking that’s always been: I, I, I.
Thoughts grown from thoughts are the weakest. Instead, I
want to see-talk, to un-I until it’s all more. I can’t turn the
boy into a lesson. But I teach him:
The man loves the boat.
With "thoughts grown from thoughts are the weakest" I reflect on the chief anxiety of adulthood, those cyclical worries about conforming to social norms. (Syntax laws are but a fraction of this challenge.) Ego hovers above the "I, I, I" in “With the Boy, with the Book” like an eventuality but also begs an origin story. What is this impulse to distort people, ideas and objects by their relationship to “I”, to wield language as a selfish means? Is ego inevitable, or conditioned?
In reading Case Study: With, there are moments I get overwhelmed by the measure of ideas I can feel but not effectively communicate. It’s utmost fitting. Themes of communication and comprehension take up the roles of chicken and egg as Kronovet juxtaposes linguistic, psychic, interpersonal and even geographical fields that begin to feel developmentally interdependent. Does it sound too complicated? Worry not. Case Study: With galvanizes the reader’s curiosity with tantalizing questions over technical proofs. And if you’re intrigued by child psychology, psycholinguistics or any subset of relativism, know that there are plenty of rabbit holes to dive into from here.