Soft Thorns – Bridgett Devoue

This collection of poems is divided into sections: bleed, love, scar, learn, heal. I was interested because a few of the themes interested me, especially when I learned the author has experienced chronic pain. I wanted to see how a poet would describe the experience of chronic pain but I never found out as, unless I missed something along the way, it was only mentioned in my letter to you.

I began to think this book wasn’t for me before I even read the first poem. During my letter to you I found

if i hadn’t hit my proverbial rock bottom, i would not have been able to plant my roots and grow upward.

Besides the lack of capitalisation, which is a huge turn off for me regardless of how incredible the writing is, I have a problem with the whole ‘rock bottom’ thing. I know it’s already reached maximum cliché level at this point but that’s not my concern. It’s the concept itself. Do we really need to fall as low as we possibly can in order to grow? Can’t we attempt to catch ourselves as we’re falling instead? Once I had my internal rant about that I moved on, hoping to be wowed by the poetry.

I wasn’t and I’m really disappointed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Poetry is such a personal experience; what you hate I may love and vice versa. Whenever I begin any book I fully intend to adore it and word vomit to everyone who will listen to me about why they should read it and hopefully love it too. I hate it when that doesn’t happen.

I want to acknowledge that this author has explored some really painful experiences in writing these poems. It takes courage and resilience to excavate these and then share them with the world. Just because I didn’t find a connection with these poems doesn’t mean you won’t.

I did connect a little to some of the first group of poems but as soon as the love story and ultimate heartbreak began it was all over for me. If you’re in the midst of your own devastating breakup you may find these poems resonate with you but my icy heart wasn’t warmed and I certainly wasn’t keen to go looking for love after reading so much about the devastation of its demise. I think if I was going through a breakup a lot of these poems would actually make me feel worse about my situation.

Some of the shorter poems read to me like sentences, not poetry. A significant amount felt like matter of fact statements. I don’t want to be able to read one poem after another without having to pause and take in the beauty of the specific combination of words I’ve just experienced. I want something revolutionary. I want to experience at least one ‘wow, I’ve never thought of it that way!’ moment.

Granted I probably want too much from poetry but ultimately it boils down to wanting poetry to make me feel. I want to feel the poet’s joy, heartache, rage, passion, hope. I want to take the experience (if not the specific words) of the poetry with me when I close the book. I read this book straight through and I hate to say it but the only thing I’m taking away from it is gratitude that I’m happily single.

Content warnings include sexual assault and anorexia.

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. I need to research whether a book of poetry is really for me rather than getting excited and jumping straight in without doing my homework.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The poetry living within these pages tells stories of love, heartbreak, freedom, oppression, sexual assault, sexism, hope, and humanity.  Our darkest times are where we grow the most, so in this book, I share mine, and together we learn how to heal.

Soft Thorns is a poetry collection that takes the reader on a journey through a young woman’s life – from reckoning with her looks and sexuality to dealing with the trauma of sexual assault, and finally through the highs and lows of young love found and lost. Bridgett Devoue shares her raw, human story and the lessons learned from living a life fully.

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