Disappearing Into the Details of Life

A review of ‘This is How We Disappear’ by Emisenla Jamir

Sentilong Ozukum

In her moving second collection "This Is How We Disappear," Emisenla Jamir meditates on the multitude of ways we can vanish, both literally and metaphorically. Through vivid imagery and nuanced explorations of universal themes, Jamir spotlights the forgotten and illuminates the overlooked in order to reveal deeper human truths.

The book opens with "Chequered Floor," immediately immersing us in the evocative details of childhood memory through tangible sensory imagery - the smell of apples, the hum of the refrigerator. From there, the collection branches into diverse yet interrelated reflections on identity, womanhood, grief, mortality, and the relentless passage of time.

Jamir frequently uses natural metaphors to explore her themes, like in "Falling Apart" where the speaker's unravelling mental state is mirrored by imagined indoor rain. In "Names I & II," the dissolution of the speaker's identity after marriage is rendered heartbreakingly through the image of her name slipping from her tongue.

While many of the poems have an intimate, confessional feel, Jamir also brings in broader social and political disappearances. "Unremembered Lives" mourns the loss of Indigenous culture, evoked by “echoes of aging songs" and "swishing sound of sickles." "Lamentation" offers a searing critique of public apathy towards violence.

Jamir's poems shine in their specificity. Seemingly mundane moments become conduits to broader meaning. In "Another Day," the speaker contemplates life's impermanence while watching another day "fold itself/into the waning light." Similarly, in "Months Drip Down," the metaphor of months as "leftover rain rolling/from leaves after a thunderstorm" perfectly captures a fleeting sensation of loss.

The poet's sharp observations, whether of nature, family, or her own emotional landscape, grant wisdom and resonance to everyday experience. Poems brim with rich sensory details—the smell of rain, the sterile feel of a hospital at night, the childhood memory of a father's harmonica. With grace and insight, she finds the universal in the particular, revealing deeper human truths and warning that to ignore life's small details is to disappear from ourselves.

Formally inventive, Jamir's poems showcase her remarkable versatility. Some feel like compact short stories while others unfurl in long lines heavy with feeling. She alternates between tightly structured pieces and free flowing trains of thought, allowing form to follow function.

Elegantly insightful, politically conscious, and richly immersive, Emisenla Jamir in "This Is How We Disappear" invites us to pause and truly look, reminding us that poetry lives in every moment, however fleeting. Lest we ignore life's details at the risk of disappearing from ourselves.