Actor, Model, Poet: Yrsa Daley-Ward

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Review by Amelia Brown

Yrsa Daley-Ward is a British writer, model, and actor of West Indian and West African heritage. She has published a book of short stories and recently, a debut book of poetry entitled bone.

The collection begins with an introduction that reads:

“I am the tall dark stranger

those warnings prepared you for.”

If a stranger at first meeting, Daley-Ward reels you into her private world poem by poem. Her rocky upbringing in northern England,  fragmented sexual history, and disjointed family web are each presented with clear-eyed observation. Daley-Ward is at her best when observing, giving a raw and placid voice to the struggles of womanhood, maturation, love, domestic violence, and diasporic life. While the themes of the collection build its overall shape, it is the small still-life descriptions that give it texture. A world is sketched out in raw cut vegetables, cinnamon spice, polyester curtains, jollof rice, Nike trainers, and plastic fake nails. Daley-Ward’s talent is clear, yet some of the shortest pieces in the collection do not pack quite the punch of their more lengthy neighbors. The two-or-three-liners do serve as a foil to the longer pieces, as a moment of re-calibration, but the collection could stand without some of them. Not so much bone as sinew, Daley-Ward’s debut collection cuts to the quick and sedulously tends to the experiences and repercussions of the author’s observed life. With a wry turn of phrase and a resilient spirit, bone is equal parts salt and hope.

Here follows a poem from bone, entitled “14”:


By Yrsa Daley-Ward

But at least I’m not fourteen
talking to other peoples husbands
avoiding my stepfather
drinking all of the clear stuff I can find in my
mothers cabinet,
washing it down with talcum powder
and orange juice
passing out in parks
or at football games
and getting the dark dark chills
in the early hours of the morning.
Staying forever far from home
completely, completely at sea
Knowing God has cut me out
jagged, loose, wild.

“14” was originally published in bone, 3AM press, 2014.

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