Dina Del Bucchia: “Poetry complemented my fiction”

In this original essay for Read Local BC, the delightful and humourous Dina Del Bucchia shares her experience publishing in multiple genres and embracing different writing styles across her literary life.

After three well-received collections of poetry, Dina recently published Don’t Tell Me What to Do (Arsenal Pulp Press), her debut book of short stories. In a starred review of the book, Quill & Quire said, “Del Bucchia holds real situations and emotions up to a funhouse mirror, and the world is shown to be both sillier and sadder than we expected.”

Write it All, You Might Get Lucky

By Dina Del Bucchia

Though my experience of publishing poetry books came first, I’d been writing fiction, and taking it seriously for, like, a very long time. I’d set out to be a fiction writer. I love poetry – reading it, writing it, forcing people to listen to my loud voice while I perform it at events – but, I’d never called myself a poet. I was writing fiction. Somewhere. In somewhat secret. Sometimes. With each poetry book, part of me wondered if I’d ever finish these stories I’d been working on for most of my adult life.

“With fiction I still write in bursts, crack into things with gusto, but I take long breaks, spend a lot of time freaking out, or thinking about a story while I’m supposed to be buying vegetables.”

Publishing that first book of poetry was thrilling. I couldn’t believe it. Partially because, to myself, I wasn’t a poet. I hadn’t earned that title. I just got lucky with this thing. Someone decided my work was good enough, that I had showed up enough to literary business, and somehow I got to publish a real book.

Writing fiction took a long time. The oldest story in the collection could get a driver’s license if it were a human being. Of course, things changed so much as I revised. Characters were eliminated or stories were completely revamped. And I intermingled. While writing a story I would take a break to write or revise a poem. Sometimes I would work on poetry in the morning and a story later that day. I somehow could manage to feel engaged with both. Writing one would give me energy to write the other. Which is why I was able to write three poetry collections during a quarter of the time it took to write an entire book of fiction. Poetry complemented my fiction. It made me think more deeply, to consider language more thoroughly, and sometimes to overwrite some things pretty intensely.

With poetry I feel obsessive. There’s a drive that requires me to explore a topic or concept and write around that idea furiously. With fiction I still write in bursts, crack into things with gusto, but I take long breaks, spend a lot of time freaking out, or thinking about a story while I’m supposed to be buying vegetables.

Oddly, I feel like this is the way I’m supposed to publish. I start with the most obscure (ooooh, line breaks!) and then move into something more normie (oh, sentences, I know what those are), and then finally I pull myself together and write a novel. And that’s what I want to do next, finish a now not-so-secret novel, but who knows. Maybe I’ll get to live another publishing dream first: that collection of fart jokes I’ve been working on for basically my entire life.

In some ways publishing poetry and short stories are similar. As a bookseller, which I also am, you have an almost equal chance of convincing a reader to bring a collection of one or the other to their forever bookshelf home. “I just don’t like short stories, sorry,” (not sorry) is almost as common as, “I just don’t get poetry, sorry” (somehow slightly more believable as apology). Both are more than worth the time to read. And I don’t care how long it takes me to write my next book. If it’s published I’ll be thrilled.

Dina Del Bucchia an otter enthusiast and the author of three collections of poetry: Coping with Emotions and Otters (Talonbooks, 2013), Blind Items (Insomniac Press, 2014), and Rom Com (Talonbooks, 2015), the latter written with her Can’t Lit podcast co-host Daniel Zomparelli. She is an editor of Poetry Is Dead magazine and the Artistic Director of the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series. Dina created and updates “Dress Like a Book” (on tumblr and Instagram) to unite two of her great loves: literature and fashion. Her first collection of short stories, Don’t Tell Me What to Do is out now with Arsenal Pulp Press. You can find out more about her at dinadelbucchia.com.

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