The first event of the 2014 Mission Creek festival saw poet Adam Fell and author Leslie Jamison reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore downtown. Fell read from his newest collection of poems, entitled “Dear Corporation”, a series of open letters to the increasingly corporate world we find ourselves in. Jamison read from her new book, The Empathy Exams, a study into one of the hardest, most intangible human emotions.
Fell’s reading was heartfelt, his voice full of emotion and meaning. He read poems on love, on feelings of helplessness in response to tragedy, and the heartlessness and insincerity of corporate emotion. His writing is characterized by building, twisting runs of words and phrases, sincere sentiments, and occasional splashes of irreverent humor. He uses quick switches of direction and words with double meanings to add depth and structure to his poems.
Jamison read an excerpt from an essay about Morgellons disease, a condition which causes suffers to believe that they are suffering from parasites when no parasites are present. The piece centered on sufferer’s struggle to get their condition recognized medically. and the lack of empathy on the part of the medical professionals they spoke to.
She also read a piece about voyeurism and schadenfreude, enjoyment and consumption of other’s misery. It describes a writer, James Agee, and his writing about unrequited desire and pain; and the how Jamison was profoundly affected by her reading of Agee’s achingly empathetic piece.
While Fell’s reading was spattered with laughter and reaction to his poetry, Jamison held the audience enraptured, no one spoke until she had finished. She varied the tone, speed, and volume of her voice masterfully, coaxing volumes of emotion from a reading only minutes long. Even the brief snippet of The Empathy Exams that she read drips with meaning and emotion. It makes you want to be a better, and a more empathetic person.
The event was an excellent kickoff for the literary portion of the Mission Creek festival. and I’m looking forward to the rest of the readings.