Bella’s Poetry Rejects the Confines of Form and is Rambunctious on the Page
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J. W. Bella never needs to fear that her poetic work will ever be labeled as ‘timid’ or ‘mild.’ Her entire collection is made up of passionate, brash entries. Even if the poems can feel rather disjointed at times, the speaker’s voice is never dull. Bella’s The Slip Under My Church Dress was published in 2019 though Pen2Pad Ink Publishing and is a very unique work of poetry.
Her style is not one of subtlety nor does it follow the guidelines of any specific form. The poetry contained within this thoroughly contemporary collection is not meant to soothe mental aches or pains of the heart. Rather, it aims to shock its readers with harsh jolts of verse which may send them pinwheeling into action (-of what kind entirely depends upon the individual reader). Bella does not mince her words as she lays them down upon the page, and she capitalizes the ones she wishes her readers to focus on. This technique is seen quite often throughout the text.
When “Isaac Newton’s head was popped by / Satan’s temptation fruit. He then understood that evil wanted to be / grounded as well.” So too does Bella’s poetry want to be grounded. Her work is part of this temporal, carnal plane which is ruled (at the moment) by homo sapiens. It discusses homophobia, bullying and addiction, along with a multitude of subjects that can only be truly savored by the human species. In fact, Bella cleverly makes her readers complicit in the speaker’s own addiction. “Because my addiction is attention, / And I can’t get away from it because / you keep giving it to me,” the speaker winks at the readers in the last lines of “Please”.
She also pays quite a bit of attention to the nature of lies; Bella studies how a person’s supposed “…clarity and honesty…” could really be “…as shallow and cheap as a Dollar Store kiddie pool.” This focus on lies and lack of mental stability in the collection teases the readers with the prospect that the speaker could actually not be reliable as a narrator at all. It is quite plainly stated in “Secret Weakness” that “I’m not stable. At. / All.” This discovery leaves the responsibility of flushing out what is true and what is is false to the readers.
It is also interesting to note that throughout the text, the speaker seems to struggle with taking control of her own fate. The speaker states in “GPS” that, “I still wander aimlessly…” and “I wish I could get my identity to arrive at a / destination.” This lack of personal agency is seen again in “Life I”. The speaker is passive, simply watching “…Life ride – / Toward adventure, / On a prayer” and “…eat – / Consume power, / Digested control.” And yet, Bella’s piece “Life II” contains stern and direct advice for her readers when it comes to engaging in life more fully since “waiting warrants weariness.”
Find me for yourself.
Find me in your identity.
Find me in your actions.
Find me in your dreams.
Find me in your heart.
I am not easy.Life II
Life as a character does not seem to want those experiencing it to simply “…wither – / Into a dried raisin, / Become a corpse.” Death will come for all in the end, but there is no need to live as if one were dead already the piece implies.
Fans of rhyme and meter may not find The Slip Under My Church Dress to be to their liking; however, Bella’s poetry could very well be an excellent addition to the bookshelf for those who enjoy rambunctious poetry which seems to take on a life of its own every time it is read.
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