2014, you self-published bone—a stunning
and affecting collection of autobiographical poems that
to-date has sold over 20,000 copies. This fall, Penguin
is re-releasing an expanded edition with 40 new pages
of previously unpublished work. Most books don’t
sell nearly that many copies, let alone self-published
ones—can you describe your poetry and why you
think it resonates with so many readers?
Daley-Ward: Firstly, thank you! I like to write
about the inner workings of human emotional life, things
that are both everyday and primal. I think that whenever
we discuss universal themes, and life experiences that
we all have to encounter; when we bring to mind the
full range of human emotion; love, fear, sadness, hope…
any piece of art that evokes these feelings is a way
of bringing us all together. In todays world with all
of its divides, all of its prejudices, we need bridges.
The creative arts can sometimes act as a respite from
all of the difference. A common ground. Feelings are
as old as the planet.
about both racial and sexual identity, many of the poems
in bone are autobiographical. It almost feels as if
you’ve laid yourself bare for inspection, which
offers a truly intimate reading experience. What subjects
were the hardest to write about?
The poems in bone are stark and revealing, but so is
all of my work. Wait until the next book! I don’t
find it so very difficult to write about any of these
topics, because storytelling and the written word are
my chosen mediums; they are how I best connect to the
world and others around me. It’s actually cathartic,
as opposed to difficult.
to Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, and others, you use Instagram
and other social media sites to share your poetry, reaching
hundreds of thousands of followers with a single click
of the button. Why do you and other poets use this medium
to share your poems?
Exactly that! The reach! it reaches hundreds of thousands
of people – people who aren’t necessarily
‘poetry people’! God, I’m not even
a poetry person. Not really. I just happen to write
media was a no-brainer when I independently co released
my book with ‘nejma’ by the incredible writer
Nayyirah Waheed and the stunning ‘Zimbabwe’
by Tapiwa Mugabe. It is extremely important that literature
is made accessible.
because you do it doesn’t
mean you always will.”
Yrsa Daley-Ward, bone
have a background in acting and modelling. Can you tell
us how you got your start in those art forms and how
you eventually found your way into poetry?
Writing has always, always been first. Books are my
first love. I was a writer before I was anything else
and I’ll be a writer after, I should think. I
love storytelling and music the theatre and acting came
naturally. And by the time I was thirteen I was five
foot eight and still growing and the only black person
in my entire year school and skinny legged with very
low self esteem so modeling felt like a forgone conclusion.
And in a small, complicated way it helped me.
has acting and modelling influenced or informed your
Perhaps they have influenced my writing. I’m not
sure how though. More than anything my life has influenced
what I write. It has been hard and soft and long and
a little too short at the same time. It has been rocky
and I’ve been plenty wild. I’ve lived within
varying extremes, fully and quietly. That’s what
influences the poetry. Not any job I’ve had. The
jobs are garnishes, never the meat.
of Nigerian and Jamaican heritage, you were raised both
by your grandparents in the north of England, and with
your mother, a single-parent. In many ways bone is a
collection in which you grapple with your journey growing
up as a first-generation black British woman. Can you
talk briefly about your upbringing and why you felt
compelled to write about it?
I began writing about what I know. Don’t we all
have a story? Don’t our stories, separate and
unique, bind us together? These are mine. I don’t
have any other first-hand stories to tell but my own.
I grew up in a strict religious household belonging
to my Jamaican grandparents, was the daughter of a single
to a working class mother (I never met my father, he
was Nigerian and met my mother briefly, in England and
they had an affair and made me.)
joking, it’s a little more than that.
never too late to be wise. Find someone who
makes your feel like you're coming home.”
does intersectionality mean to you and does it affect
Oh how could I not be intersectional. I’m a one
person ‘diversity’ checklist. All of the
‘minorities’, which of course – are
not minorities at all. But lets not get into that.
belong to SO many groups. So many, and none at all.
Boxes are boring.
do you hope readers will take away from reading bone?
Poetry can make you feel understood. Give you hope.
Poetry is extremely sexy. Poetry can explode in your
Daley-Ward on twitter
wants to thank Yrsa Daley-Ward and Penguin Paperback
for the interview.