Book Review: Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Several extracts from the poems of Yrsa Daley-Ward’s collection Bone have ended up in my diary and on the walls of my room. The collection is as raw and essential as the title suggests: no sentence is unnecessary; every line is charged. Whole poems are made up of sentences which could be considered aphorisms, but which lack their sarcasm or arrogance.
Yrsa Daley-Ward, born from Jamaican and Nigerian parents and raised in the north of England, hides nothing of herself and her story, and puts her hands in all the dark, visceral, and secret places of her life. She writes uncompromisingly about the most difficult themes: mental illness, sexual work and abuse, poverty, depression and hope, family, home, and love – especially love.
Although Bone is made up of many poems and several pieces of flash-fiction, the collection gave me the feeling of being more unitary, complete, and solid than its form may suggest; it almost felt like a novel, or a movie. Recurring images or themes set the mood and atmosphere of the whole collection, so that after a couple of pages the poems begin to feel familiar. For instance, a recurring image is that of small spaces, dark spaces, tight spaces, things which fold on themselves, which gasp for air, which need to escape.
But this is not everything. As much as the poems have a claustrophobic undertone, they are not dwelling into it or into drama for its own sake, and are ready to embrace the complexity of emotions and the most luminous parts of existence as well–again, especially love. The poems in which this was most manifest were my favorite ones. One of them is “not the end of the world, but almost,” with extracts like:
No hard feelings hard, bright world
just maybe you are not for me. Maybe
I’m stretched too thinly, pressed too deeply into you in a shape that I
can’t keep without cramping and maybe
just maybe your breath is too cold. …
That was when I saw you.
Days when I want to kiss you but
your mouth is bitter and my thoughts
are bitter and I’m angry, just mad, just crazy with it all
but we are each others home sweet
The roof is screwed on too tight at
times and the walls of our house can pinch a little but, my God, they are
The collection is ultimately saved from being dark and obsessive. The poems are also full of light, and of strength, and of warmth. Sometimes, they are touching. It is also true, however, that they are not always easy to relate to, and that the repetitiveness of certain themes and moods might be heavy on people who have no idea whatsoever what the author is talking about. For this reason, although I would say that this book is for many, it is not for all.
This collection will be released on 26 September, but you can preorder it now:
Did her BA in English Language and Culture in Groningen, and is currently doing her MA in English and American Modern Literature in Cork. Particularly interested in the Beats and in all sorts of poetry. Believes in travelling, practical art, daydreaming, and dark chocolate.