Adam Fell, Dear Corporation, H_NGM_N Books, 2013

Reviewed by Ashleigh Lambert

[Review Guidelines]

Corporations are people—but what kind of people are they? And what kind of people have they turned us into? What does it feel like to be us—human subjects engaging with subjects who may or may not have bodies, who may use language for purposes different than our own purposes, whose interests are often so at odds with our own?
      Or put another way: what if the best response to living in a capitalist dystopia is to have another drink and dance to the Pixies?
      In Dear Corporation, Adam Fell tries to come to terms with the rise of the Corporation at the expense of the (lonely, broken, aching, laughing, raging) individual. In these epistolary prose poems, Fell complicates notions of the Corporation as a foe, as a way of being in the world, as a mirror, as a replacement for archaic forms of authority. The boundaries of the Corporation are uncharted, and "where I suspect a wilderness may be, a wilderness usually is, and I can't help but explore." The nebulous borders and accommodating blankness of the Corporation mean it's also "the one person I know I can say anything to." But sometimes we just need our people to be made of meat: "My dear Corporation, are you corporeal enough tonight to reach out your hand?"
      Fell's speaker is beleaguered but helplessly hopeful. Fell is concerned with culpability: his own and that of the systems (government, business) that dictate what seems possible. Tentatively, and with stops at a few dive bars along the way, he makes his way through a "world that revels in the breadth and breathlessness of its own discorporation." Fell is attuned to the ways old and new technology guide our lives; he salutes "the crass electricities that keep you in touch" while being equally taken in by the "tidal pull" of LPs with their beautiful scars. He is as wry as he is passionate, as in love with elements of modern American culture as he is disappointed by it.
      Fell understands that one of The Corporation's cleverest tricks is its co-opting of language. He responds not by parroting back the kind of easily mockable business-speak that fills "Dilbert" strips, but by seizing language's power to refract our fragility. At the same time, Fell's diction makes manifest all the violence lurking behind our manners and our rituals. Ancestors "are buried like a bright, unbreakable knife, blade-up in your middle-western blood;" Scott Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin, is "shattering out at us" from the capitol building.
      Dear Corporation is a cri de coeur for empathy, love, engagement, and all the other things that make being a person worthwhile. As Fell reminds us, "We are not born to stake a claim, but to claim a stake in each other."