Life has dealt Yrsa Daley-Ward, of mixed West Indian & West African heritage, a series of hardships which would floor the most resilient.
The celebrated poet and storyteller has had to deal with major depression, according to BBC. But it was these things, Yrsa said, that has made her the person she is and added an extra dimension to her first collection of poetry, “Bone”.
Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England. “I believe that every experience is positive and I wouldn’t have a book of poetry if I hadn’t gone through challenging times,” she said.
“From navigating the oft-competing worlds of religion and desire, to balancing society’s expectations with the raw experience of being a woman in the world…each of the raw and immediate poems in Daley-Ward’s bone resonates to the core of what it means to be human,” Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division commented.
“I was just going under and it was really difficult trying to keep your head above water, trying to pay rent and trying to stay positive without any support. The lack of opportunities for black models made matters worse,” Yrsa explained.
She eventually packed her bags and headed for South Africa, using her savings. “The thing that attracted me to South Africa was that the models look like me and there’s so much more diversity,” she said.
It was in a bar in Cape Town that she rediscovered her love of poetry. One night she attended a spoken-word performance where anyone could perform, so long as they prepared something under the designated theme. And the theme for the next meeting, according to the BBC, was something that Daley-Ward could identify with: Family discord. “Well, that’s going to be easy,” she thought.
So her career unfolded.
Daley-Ward ended up self-publishing a book of poems, some of which grew out of these sessions in South Africa. Many poems deal with the pain of her early years.
According to artist Florence Welch, “Yrsa’s work is like holding the truth in your hands. It sweats and breathes before you. A glorious living thing.”