Gigi Bella’s new collection Big Feelings is not a narrative work, but its poems flow like a drive through the streets, stopping at lights to check your phone for a text message and maybe pulling into the Golden Pride drive-thru for a number nine breakfast burrito. The poems string together to form a world that is intimate and often irritating. Brendas, gaslighting white boys, cheating lovers; they are all there in good measure. Many of the poems are tinged with sadness at times, but not to the point of lament. These are statements of fact, dispatched from an aching heart.
Big Feelings gives equal weight to characters real and present, like lovers and relatives, and those distant, imaginary or understood only through the TV, radio and Instagram—like Pete Davidson, Selina and Jim Hopper from “Stranger Things.” All comers are taken in, and responded to, in the same fashion. Do our emotions know the difference?
What is striking about Big Feelings is the ease in which the language roles along unencumbered by form. Textspeak, Spanish and sparse capitalization blend so that the author can get to the point, often leaving a summation at the end. In “a note on justicia para barb:” she finishes with “maybe when we grow up we coalesce into the person we always were.” Maybe.
Given the pandemic, we will likely not witness any live readings from Big Feelings anytime soon. That’s truly a shame, considering Gigi Bella’s prolific stage/performance background. (She was named the 2017 Albuquerque Women's Slam Poetry Champion.) It certainly seems like many of these pieces are meant to be read aloud. We can add that to the long list of things we’ll look forward to when all of this is over. On the bright side, reading these silently quiets Big Feelings and presents the poems in a different context than maybe they were intended. Consider them in your own voice, or maybe one that you make up for just such occasions.