Fast-paced slam-style poetry along with intimate sonnets immerse Gigi Bella’s audience as she moves through key emotions in her own experiences with loss, pain, healing and love in her newly-released poetry book “Big Feelings.”
A born and raised New Mexican, the 26-year-old Bella is an internationally recognized poet with a multitude of writing and slam poetry competition awards. In 2017, she was ranked 10th in the world at the Women of the World Poetry Slam.
After a lengthy hiatus from higher education, she’ll also finish her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a focus on American studies at the University of New Mexico in the fall.
The familiar whirlwind of emotions during and after the loss of a significant relationship is a prominent theme in “Big Feelings.” Bella delves inside her mind as her moods shift and switch throughout the pages.
“i feel small when her name pops up on the screen seven years to my one,” she writes in the poem “three in the morning.”
She then goes into feelings of jealousy coupled with depression, recounting, “i become a tremor when i see how many times he’s called her.”
Soon after, a worry-filled sonnet addresses her ex-boyfriend’s struggle with alcoholism.
“i dont really know what to say except that i love u & i want to keep fighting for this,” she writes, the frantic tone evident by her lack of punctuation or pause. “i saw the beer in the fridge i thought u said u had stopped pleasedontstartagain.”
Bella masterfully works an element of ambiguity into her poems, leaving some of the stories in the hands of her readers while also not being too vague to cloud the points she’s making. The plotlines are introduced subtly, and the emphases give less on the details of the narratives and more on the feelings experienced within them.
The result is a book charged with emotions that crackle throughout every page. Between the lines of a tragic story of heartbreak and loss exists an undercurrent imbued with wonder, humor and joy in everyday experiences, including an intriguing stream-of-consciousness encounter with an attractive TSA agent and a suitcase-bound pink vibrator.
“maybe in a la la land twist of planetarium fate we both drift upward from the long steel table, some willy wonka fizzy lifting drink & the vibrator floats out of my bag & we dance to some caucasian orchestral symphony rodgers & hammerstein airport rave,” Bella’s verse screams and bleeds off the page, a half-sexual fantasy dreamscape and half-expression of freedom in femininity.
Bella also has a knack for tapping into and extracting subtle and unexplainable feelings that most of us understand so little about and organizing them into almost uncannily relatable poetry.
In “Louie says weird things like,” Bella explores the quality of strangeness that loving and kind interactions take on after an experience in a chaotic relationship.
“It’s that feeling of like, after somebody made you feel so deteriorated, then how do you come back to feeling like you’re worthy of love?” Bella explained of “Louie.” “This isn’t a book about hurt necessarily ... I wanted it to be a book about being worthy of love, what that looks like and all of the big feelings that come with that.”
For many poets and other artists, overcoming the fear of opening up private emotions and thoughts can be a struggle.
“For me, I’ve always seen my poetic voice as a gateway to bravery,” she said. “I tell these stories and I’m brave, in an instance, so that somebody else might feel like they can be brave too, or so that they might feel like they’re not alone, or they might be able to say the thing that they need to say.”
This is Bella’s first book release after a lengthy performing career in slam poetry and theater. Bella has been featured in New Mexico’s Weekly Alibi magazine and The Knight’s Library quarterly magazine. She also advocated for New Mexico’s Anti-Racism bill on the New Mexico Senate floor in 2017 and was a featured speaker during the 2017 Women's March.
The two-time Project X Bronx Poetry Champion, who is irreverently described in the book’s biography as a “literal mermaid,” ends on an incendiary note that is all-too-evocative of the nation’s current upheavals in the poem “burn it all.”
“say we run & run & run / say we stop,” Bella writes of the absurdity of modern existence. “watch it all burning, the prettiest sunset / say we have a picnic watch the sky go down / watch it all / go down.”
Liam DeBonis is a freelance reporter and photographer at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LiamDeBonis