Review: soft in the middle by Shelby Eileen

Emotional and strong, this collection of poetry explores body image, sexuality, romance, and more. Shelby Eileen’s style really stands out in this collection, which is more personal and intense.


What is soft in the middle about?

This collection was Shelby Eileen’s debut of poetry about body image, heartbreak, self love, and loving women. The poems range from touching on how self image and self love come together, and to admiring beautiful and enchanting women (yes in a Sapphic way).

Genre: Poetry

I think I have to stop saying I’m not a fan of poetry at this point, considering how many poetry collections I’ve read recently… But honestly, this was a beautiful collection, I can’t recommend it enough!

Themes: Self love, acceptance

There’s a bit of a narrative arc throughout the collection. It begins from a place of very raw, very real pain and hurt. Throughout the poems Shelby Eileen goes from insecurity to understanding, from fear to confidence. The poems begin to evolve towards an acceptance of life and most importantly self love.

The Good

I’m a sucker for a sapphic poem honestly. There are quite a few poems about loving women scattered throughout the collection, and the poet often returns to this theme. I found it lovely and impactful to see self love, love of women, and also identity wrapped up together. It’s not often that I see another sapphic woman capture how my aromantic feelings towards other women come through, but it was a very lovely reading experience seeing it on the page from Shelby Eileen’s perspective.

The Okay

I suppose the only thing I really have to say is I do wish the collection were longer, though I understand it’s a debut. I’ll be eliminating “The Bad” section because honestly I don’t know that I have anything for it.

Final Thoughts

This poetry collection contrasts so firmly with ones I have read–usually during my school career–in which the poets were so disconnected that the poems felt disingenuous. Here, I felt real emotion in the writing and real pain that stands out on the page alongside the realization that with that pain comes love. Self love, and understanding of one’s self, come to life in these poems and appeal to a sense of hope. Vulnerability and acceptance swirl around with words of pain and hurt that echo from the past to the present for the poet. This is a beautiful collection that really reveals so much and is a lovely, short read.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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