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Under the Microscope:
Dina Del Bucchia's It’s a Big Deal!

Dina Del Bucchia book cover
Dina Del Bucchia, It’s a Big Deal!
Vancouver: Talon Books, 2019.

“So many things seem like a BIG DEAL.” So begins the back cover copy for Dina Del Bucchia’s latest poetry collection, and a truer sentence could not be said of our hyperconnected, contemporary world. Every five seconds there’s some new trend or bit of news we’re expected to have a reaction to, whether it’s outrage or joy, sadness or annoyance. It’s a Big Deal! tackles the concept of “bigness”―personal, ideological, physical, or otherwise―examining how we interpret and handle the captivations and distractions of modern life.

Bigness is obviously a broad concept, so it is fitting that Del Bucchia has divided this collection into four sections, each of which takes a different approach. The first of these sections, titled “Tips,” begins with several poems written in the imperative that set the tone for the entire collection. These take on topics like fashion and diets and read as parodies of instructions, mixing the potentially helpful with the absurd. The result is poems that mimic so-called wellness gurus, only with self-awareness and sarcasm. The use of footnotes adds an academic aesthetic while acting as another vehicle for humorous quips and observations. For example, a line from “Diet” reads: “Keep a food diary wherein you confess only your unbidden love of certain foods.” The accompanying note plays on the feeling of shame that diets often promote: “Hide this diary in your underwear drawer like any self-respecting diarist would do.”

The same sense of candour and wit can be found in the sections that follow. “Talk It Out” largely focuses on social matters, using familiar lines of dialogue like “I think I speak for all of us” and “sorry not sorry” as jumping-off points. The issues covered here are both systemic and personal. For example, “Boys Will Be Boys” calls out rape culture, while “Remember When” addresses an old friend and is laden with personal nostalgia.

Some of these same themes appear in the next section, “Big Ideas,” which explores ideology with poems on politics, mindfulness, and other such concepts. Many of the collection’s longer, more prose-like poems can be found here, and although the subjects of individual poems are quite broad, Del Bucchia has a remarkable talent for distillation, and zooms in on specific aspects to pack a memorable punch. “Culture,” for example, includes references to “backlash,” “culture police,” Rihanna, and YouTube and feels like a direct response to online comment sections and social media, leaving us with the ominous line, “Somewhere, somehow the culture we love will go pop, but not in a good way.”

The collection closes with perhaps the most entertaining section, “Megafauna.” The poems found here are all inspired by the large mammals of days past, but Del Bucchia often juxtaposes these creatures with modern references. For example, “Giant Ground Sloth” starts with discussing this animal’s mass and movement and goes on to ask whether we should thank it for modern brunch and avocado toast. In fact, the poems in this section are perhaps the best examples of Del Bucchia’s ability to create poetic turns and subvert expectations.

Del Bucchia is no stranger to cultural commentary, so it’s not surprising that she’s able to approach topics with nuance. This collection is neither scathing critique of our culture nor bubbly praise. Instead, Del Bucchia includes a variety of views, acknowledging that what seems significant to one person may not be to another. It feels like a casual reminder that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes—there’s a lot out there demanding our attention—and it’s also okay to laugh at ourselves when we are. It’s a lovely, smart collection to read, especially when every little thing does feel like a big deal.

ARC HITS THE HEART HARD.