A review of Distance by Simeon Kronenberg

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

by Simeon Kronenberg
Paperback, 106 pages, ISBN 978-1-922080-82-0, A$28.00

I have lately found myself reviewing a few poetry books in which the poetry falls in the category of post-postmodern. This is poetry that eschews absolute meaning and emphasises fragmentation, play and metafiction. I was surprised by the poetry of Kronenberg because I did not have to make a great effort to make sense of it.  Distance is divided in four sections: “Ceremony Day”, “Tilted house”, “In a time of great anxiety” and “Late”, I tried to make sense of this split but did not make sense to me, but this does not demerit his collection at all.

It is interesting to note the variety of styles that the poet utilises in this collection. Some of the poems are “persona” poems like one titled “Akhenaten to Smenkhkare” in which the speaker takes the identity of the Pharoah, some are descriptive, and others in narrative mode, always utilising a good range of literary techniques and poetic devices. Some of the poems are made of simple lines but loaded with meaning, like the following poem titled “After rain”:

Bare sky
after rain, pale,
newly laundered,
with such a stretch
of white cloud.
I can almost taste it —
sharp sugar
on my tongue—

The everyday is in present in this collection like walking on a beach, commenting on the weather, on what he sees, what he feels or what he hears. The poet embraces nature and he paints with words that let the reader see beautiful places particularly in Bali.

Kronenberg has the skill to bring to the page events with a filmic quality, with a naturalistic style that feels very real. A good example of this is “Death of a bull” about an event which appears to have taken place in Korumburra in 1951 and which raised very sad feelings in me:

He stood with her father outside the circle of men
who told jokes and blustered as they watched a bull
thrash in sticking mud, too spent to lift its own weight
or raise its head.  The bull bellowed, its mouth a loose,
wet scar, eyes bloodshot, damaged.  Then, slipping
in the ooze, the men tied ropes to a tractor to shift
the living weight.

It is interesting to note that the poems contained in “The tilted house” are set in different parts of the world in contrast to the first section where all the poem are related to Bali/Indonesia. A lot of the poems are dedicated to different people and/or inspired by quotes from other writers or famous people. There is a strong sense of progression, as events unfold slowly, like injuring a kangaroo while driving at night or more complex events and situations like relationships, death, love, aging and desire. Kronenberg’s narrative poetry is particularly powerful, with the perfect combination between storytelling and poetic devices. 

The notes at the back add detail and information, explaining different places, characters or histories referred to in this collection. Distance is a refreshing book, with poetry that leans on a traditional style, but in a way that is perfectly accessible.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet, she writes poetry, fiction, reviews and plays. The author’s books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria, A Call to the Stars translated and published in China and Taiwan, Witches Women and Words, No Salami Fairy Bread, Rambles, Renacer en Azul and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. The author has participated in international conferences, has taught Creative Writing at W.S.U. and other scholarly institutions, she has read her poetry at Writers Festivals and other poetry events in Australia and overseas. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology.