Arts and Culture

Review: Metamorphosis

Posted on: Fri 17 Dec 2021

Festival City’s Emma Wotzke reviews poetry anthology, Metamorphosis by Dr Kathryn Pentecost.

Poetry can be many things. It can be thought-provoking and deeply expressive. It can elevate the consciousness of the reader, draw on broader cultural and historical context, and offer socio-political commentary.  It can encourage imagination and reflection. It can inspire grounding in an ever-moving world, while drawing the eye to detail and shifting the mind to the greater breadth of humanity.

Metamorphosis, is a uniquely inspiring collection of works that does all of this. Written by South Australian poet, academic and writer, Dr Kathryn Pentecost, the compilation has been carefully selected from works over four decades, (1980-2020), eloquently bringing together her first poetry anthology, beautifully bound in a navy hard cover.

Pentecost, also known under the pseudonym, KP van der Poel, says the book was partially inspired by a 2018 event, also called Metamorphosis, she co-performed at the Yankalilla Library. However, since this initial inspiration, the book’s title has gathered even more weight, brought to fruition in the rapidly transformative year of 2020, rocked both by the ravages of bushfires, floods and the grips of a world-wide pandemic.

The anthology contains pieces that are both refined and considered. Pentecost further highlights that “the poetry within reflects both personal and transpersonal responses to life on planet earth.” As such, there is a sense of truth and comfort as words unfold.

Although many of the works are standalone, individual poems, I read this book start to finish and found it worked really well as an entity, moving from one to the next.  The presence of transition is felt throughout the entirety of the book, which takes the reader on a candid journey through the phasic motion of its diverse works shaped by the writer’s diverse life. Although not necessarily chronological, subtle and apparent shifts in time are benchmarked by historical events and cultural reference points in either current or reflective states. Sydney’s energetic congestion, conjured memories, Balmain Walk and its culture, croissants and coffee and The World Trade Centre, twist and turn into fearful uncertainties of the Covid era and Smith street’s avocado toast and surrender to the network of modernity. The poems also evolve eloquently through the ‘groupings’ selected by the writer which are determined by form and feel.

Words craft powerful imagery to embody the natural world and rugged, emotive seascapes of Australian coast lines– resonate of Pentecost’s own personal connections to these areas. “When winter waves/ cast doubt/ over the efficacy of the sun/ The wild roar of the ocean/ is exhilarating,” a verse from The Sea, depicts nature’s sublimity guided by astute word selection.

Pages turn to evoke a potent tapestry woven from social observation, threads of cultural identity, attuned insight and the careful crafting of experience, time and these relatable places.  Public figures surface; Helen Garner, Sylvia Plath, Joni Mitchell and reference to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot – adding another layer to the writer’s reality and a sense of the real.  

Additional poems about people, connect with more personal experience and deeper intimacy. Pentecost speaks lovingly of her children and directly to her son. Loss of friends and cycles of grief land with heartfelt relatability. A powerful piece frames a lens around the rising dependency on technology and its rapid sabotage of genuine, real-time, human connection.  

The Towers – The World Trade Centre – cleverly draws on patriarchal influence, systemic hierarchy, historical evolution of the structures and repetitions of male dominance in a capitalist society. References to the natural world ebb and flow between the rustic expanse of rich Australian landscape through to a poem on devastating impacts of consumerism and humankind’s neglect of environmental preservation.  

There is a magnitude in the way the poems are laced together to demonstrate a sense of transformation, both world evolution but more notably, a sense of archetypal shift. We see through the lens of the mother, a grieving friend, a lover, a social commentator, a creative, a citizen concerned for sustainability of the natural world, a deep observer and thinker.

Pentecost’s writing is captivating. The works offer both stillness and motion. They are equally subtle and sensitive as they are potent, emotive and written with conviction. Her thoughtful and selective approach to word economy is accessible and captures a specific feel, point or narrative. She crafts through her vision of the world with humble candour and wisdom. The span of Metamorphosis presents moments pulsing with nostalgia, reflection, observation and powerful metaphor, bringing readers a multilayered and thought-provoking experience.

I love the quaint and familiar sense of ‘Australiana’ that resonates through references of cultural sign posts; Melbourne City Library Café, avocado toast, ‘wistful, weatherboard iron lace’, ‘horizons glimmering, red dirt.’ It really adds a unique and comforting feel to the landscape of the work.

The beautiful percussions of the internal and external flow between the writer’s lens and the world send ripples beyond the page – transforming perception and creating perpetual exchange.

This is a work that masterfully pieces together beautiful poems but also snapshots of time and places, fine-tuned by seasoned insight. It is a body of work that speaks to many. In some ways intimate, but also broadly connective through its variety. Metamorphosis is a beautiful collection that reveals so much about being human, told through carefully carved words infused by lifelong passion and dedication to the craft.

Produced by Emma Wotzke

Image: UnSplash

Festival City

Other stories