As title for her work, Bone educes the sentiment of its verses. Yrsa Daley-Ward’s work in this collection betrays the varied hungers in desire; the haunting, depressed bite of bad loves gnawed through to nothing; and the hardness and “deal with it” attitude needed to accost life and, maybe, to make amends.
Daley-Ward is still a fresh face in the literary world, and Bone is her first collection. It’s no surprise then that its contents are explicit of her own life. But the individuating grist that bucks up her writing illumines further the feeling behind it, and it’s a pervasive feeling.
Daley-Ward’s poetry is specific in its pictures. It doesn’t suffer from generalities, it doesn’t buckle under an over-eager attempt to feed the gaping maws of readers or critics. It stands a little to the side, self-sure on the shelf, daring you to just try it.
And it’s with curiosity that we flay its two covers and take in the broken bones. That’s another thing about this collection: there are broken bones, but better than this, Bone is Daley-Ward splinting them back to wholeness.
Her poetry in Bone is informed by a background that lands at the intersection of Jamaica, Nigeria, Britain and South Africa. It’s shot through with hard luck and replete with themes of difficult love and the body’s one reliable betrayal: the quivering heat of uncontrolled satisfaction.
Daley-Ward’s collection is minimalist, unfleshed by the overblown adjective and skinned clean of all needlessness so that her phrases come out in a pulsating marrow that gets to the heart of things.
Her use of free verse is her license to honesty. Daley-Ward is the type you feel could never bury integrity in pursuit of money or notoriety. Scattered into a collection that is largely concerned with lovers are moments of childish timidity and unhurried contentment.
She has a temerity to her writing that is nevertheless constrained, and she’s a surprise who holds tight certain secrets and spills others out in detail. It’s murky and feels highly personal, but it’s detached enough to worm its way under our skin as the common bones of human emotion.
Bone · Yrsa Daley-Ward · 2013
Penguin, 2017 · 160 pages, paperback