Review: Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward


‘You will come away bruised.

You will come away bruised

but this will give you poetry.’


This is the first collection of poetry I’ve tried to review and as I’m trying to take Cheryl Strayed’s advice from her collation of letters, Dear Sugar – to read as much poetry in my twenties as possible as there is so much to be gleaned from another person’s personal perspective and experiences – this will hopefully be the first of many.

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s debut collection, which was initially self-published in 2014 and gained a wide following on Instagram, is amongst one of the most personal and contemporary collections on shelves today. As the title, Bone, suggests Daley-Ward is concerned with the essence of human experience. From the inner self and coming of age to love and loss, Daley-Ward strips her poems down to the bare bones. Her words don’t need hours and hours of concentration to unpack and understand them, they’re pretty self-explanatory. But they’re also raw and unforgettable.

The poems in Bone vary from a couple of lines, like ‘lipsing’: ‘Some lovers look you in the mouth / right clean in your mouth / and your story comes, / running’ – lines which often pack a punch and can sum up a whole wealth of emotions in just a few words – to ones that resemble short stories or prose, like ‘it is what it is’ and ‘some kind of man’ which can stretch to seventeen pages or more. However, underlying each is Daley-Ward’s ability to beautifully string words together to create snapshot images of fleeting moments and feelings that I haven’t experienced before in poetry. This visceral immediacy can really touch to the core of human emotions even when the context isn’t always relatable.

‘[…] There are not

nearly enough distractions and it can

all get too bloody silent, which leaves

room for dangerous things, like


‘it is what it is’

Perhaps this is one reason why Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetry is so ‘instagrammable’ and why it flourished in this medium before claiming its rightful place in print. Bone can be opened at almost any page and there will be lines that speak directly to the reader. The raw emotions present are so pared down as to be universal. Yet they are much stronger and more textured when read within the collection as a whole.

There is so much of the personal in Bone. Yrsa Daley-Ward’s experience as a first generation black British woman growing up within a strict Seventh-day Adventist household and, within that, exploring her own sexuality and struggle with mental health is a unique perspective. Though, as overwhelming as the emotions her words can evoke, there is also a lot of optimism and hope scattered throughout the collection. In Bone Daley-Ward not only shows the pain she has been through, may still be going through, but also the healing power of words, of poetry.

‘Today is the first day

of the rest of it.

Of course there will be other first


but none exactly like this.’

‘dankyes (Mwaghavul)’


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