“They started painting the smokestacks green / so now everything is fine, it only looks like the forest / is on fire.” This image, from the ironically named poem “E Pluribus Unum” in Brandon Amico’s Disappearing, Inc. (Gold Wake Press), sums up much of what Amico is extracting from society’s subconscious in one concise, yet immensely complicated, sentence. Disappearing, Inc. is a collection that tries to provide a sense of camaraderie to everyone who has ever felt lost in the day to day humdrum of life. In doing this, Amico attempts to answer a slew of questions: how do art and work intertwine? Does a person’s career reflect who they are? How does technology impact the lives of those around us? More frighteningly, how does technology affect each of us? While not providing a simple answer (an impossible feat for even the most apt writer), these poems take a conversational approach to some of life’s most confusing topics, all the while weaving lithe imagery through pieces that have a stream of consciousness flair.
In “August,” Amico confronts the reader with a calm, cool, and collected voice, admitting, “I guess we should talk about existence.” Disappearing, Inc. is, in essence, talking about just that. These poems examine what it means to exist in complicated, sometimes frightening, times, but it they are also invitations. Amico is providing a space in our mass consciousness to talk about the absurdity of life. Sure, millennials can be lambasted for their insistence that adulting is hard and that the bees are dying, but are these issues so dissimilar to issues that everyone should be concerned about? Amico’s poems invite readers to collectively put on their thinking caps and address issues in ways that feel accessible, as in “#Moongate,” where the speaker absently wonders what would happen if there are no more bees—“if only / you could do that, you’d be the bee’s knees, that is / if there were still bees.”
An idea that functions, in a sense, as the true north of Disappearing, Inc. is technology. Again, Amico’s exploration of this thing that we (terrifyingly) cannot do without is laced with both eloquence and curiosity: is technology a beneficial tool, or is it ultimately unraveling the ideologies society is reliant on? This question comes up in poems like “The First Technology,” which juxtaposes the idea of technology bringing people together in meetings or Skype calls—“I dial into a conference line”—and the extreme loneliness so many seem to feel despite those connections; “so many people I can go to and be alone.” Poems like this one seem to wonder out loud—is this the way of the future? A social feed full of people who are all alone? Amico also utilizes technology in some of the more comical moments sprinkled throughout the collection. In “#Moongate,” the speaker asks, “have you thought about kids before, Harold? They’re like blog posts / that walk around and edit themselves.” Perhaps, the speaker seems to suggest, the way of the future involves us all describing things as they relate to technology. If children are blog posts, does this make adults New York Times op-eds? The conversational tone in moments like these is what make Amico’s work shine, but it does not cheapen Amico’s startling points concerning our use of technology and where we as a society might be headed.
While riding along on the winding road that is Disappearing, Inc., readers may get a little too close to the edge—too close to home. Amico seems to sense the moments where this might be the case and provides rest stops along the way. In “Music Video,” for example, this idea comes up when the speaker expresses the desire to buy a house that has “a peephole with a view of the world” and elaborates on a longing to “buy you a key for disappearing into the material around you, for cocooning.” This moment in “Music Video” dives into what Disappearing, Inc. approaches from multiple directions—the idea of losing oneself in a sea of uncertainty, technology, and turmoil. As the title of the entire collection similarly suggests, perhaps the way to survive in the world of today—and tomorrow—is to disappear, to cocoon and rejuvenate until able to return with a new sense of vigor. Again this raises questions: in a world where technology is pervasive—where you cannot leave the house without hearing about the latest viral video or crazy tweet—where are the reprieves? Amico implies that, perhaps, love and relationships are what provide these reprieves and does so with two “epithalamiums” (simply titled “Epithalamium” and Epithalamium ii”). Both epithalamiums take moments to rest and reflect on the good that comes along with the instability of the world, in the midst of fast-paced, quick-on-the-tongue poems.
Amico seems most comfortable throughout Disappearing, Inc. when playing with the absurdity and playfulness of language, matched only by the absurdity that is our modern existence. One moment where Amico toys with the absurd and also paints a vivid, yet laughable, picture is in prose poem, “Self-Portrait as Messenger App.” Here the speaker muses, “have you ever put Greek, Latin, and Old English in a blender and left it running while you were at work? I have; the stanza that my house became changed me.”
Disappearing, Inc. is both massively appealing and relatable, and also very fantastical in its structure and language. The contradictions here are what make the collection work—each poem, one after another, leaves a feeling much like what it seems Amico was trying to get at: a feeling of confusion, of hope, of despair, and of admiration. After all, Amico muses in “Definite Article,” “often words don’t say what they mean / or they do say it but enact something else entirely.” All the words in Amico’s poetry coalesce to create a picture of what it’s like to be alive, navigating the treacherous waters of modern life, love, and career. Disappearing, Inc. is both a product of its time, and a timeless poetical expedition.