Review – poems I sleep next to, By Shelby Eileen

poems I sleep next to is a poetic examination of how love and self-love can feel when it is reciprocated, fought for, and let go.

The poems have no titles, so they’re almost one big poem, almost a prose story. The story begins with a hope that the reader can find self-love, then travels through love, a breakup, and the beginnings of a new self-love in the aftermath of the ending. The poems themselves are a little reminiscent of Rupi Kaur, if only for the structure and the central theme of love in all its forms, and it’s no bad thing.

Even when the events the poems describe are painful, I loved how clearly empowerment and radical softness radiate from the book. The poetic arc serves as a reminder that when a relationship ends there is still comfort, hope, and becoming. There are also themes of faith and religion, of worshipping others and the self; there are images of comfortable warmth and destructive fire: there are poems about poems; and there’s even a little bit of magic.

Reading the whole book, with its narrative and constructed flow, feels like being clean and sleepy after a bath, or that healing sting after you’ve cleaned a grazed knee. It feels clear and still somehow dreamy. It’s easy to imagine the poetry being written in bed, on the brink of a doze or early in the morning when the author couldn’t sleep.

I really loved the feeling of this book. I loved how it made me feel, and how it gave me empathy for a love-sick, devastated, growing me that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a tender, biting, unapologetically queer read that comforts you on its journey.

The official publication date of poems I sleep next to is December 30th, and the book can be preordered here. You can also catch up with Shelby Eileen on Twitter.

Thanks to Shelby Eileen for the review copy! If any authors would like to send me their book for review, I’m always happy to have something new to read. I’ll have time for reviews from February 2020!

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