If you are a fan of what people have come to term “new-age” poetry then you must know Yrsa Daley-Ward. You should know her.
Alongside the African-American poet Nayyirah Waheed, Zimbabwean bard Tapiwa Mugabe and Nigerian writer Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Yrsa Daley-Ward, who is of West Indian and West African descent, is part of a small, elite community of black writers who are breaking down barriers.
In her words:
“It’s lovely to see women of colour poets,” she says. “Old poetry can be so inaccessible. Not just for people of colour but for people who aren’t super erudite, who don’t read, don’t love Shakespeare. Some people just want to connect with feelings.”
She was born in the northern town after her Jamaican mother (a nurse) had an extra-marital affair with a Nigerian man who came to the UK to study, leaving his wife and children behind. He died before Daley-Ward was old enough to meet him.
Talking about her poem with THE GUARDIAN, she mentioned a reading in south London where a man came up to her in tears. “He asked me to send it to him. I thought nobody was listening,” she says
Mental Health, has made fans of people who have never given a thought to poetry.
Mental Health Poem:
If you’re walking down an aisle with a
dim, florescent hue
by the tinned fish and canned beans
strip lighting above, cracked tiles
with the realisation that most things
and get the sudden urge to end it all
don’t stop. Call a friend.
Call your mother if you have one
and, if you can stand her,
listen to her talk about the price of
canned fish and tinned beans.
Call the speaking clock. Know that
whatever time it says is the time that
everything has to change.
Leave the damn aisle.
Don’t go anywhere where they sell
sweets, chips, booze,
fast love or lottery tickets.
See that just outside there are people
lined streets that are emptier than
skies darker than your own
Look for yourself, because it never
helps to hear from anyone else.
If you are one of those ‘running
around town like mad’ people,
people who jump from tall buildings,
buildings with glass fronts and not
if you are failing to fix a broken story
if you have been cooped up for far
too long in a very high tower in a
dangerously low state
plenty of TV channels and TV
dinners. Plenty of biscuits, chocolate
desserts, cake and plenty of wine but
no love for miles and miles
if you did not get up for work today
if it has been afternoon for hours
and the silence is keeping you awake,
if you only remember how to draw
your breath in and out like waves of
thick tar cooling,
if you are wishing it later,
pulling the sun down with your
prayers, leave the damn bed.
Wash the damn walls. Crack open a
even in the rain. Even in the snow.
Listen to the church bells outside.
Know that however many times they
chime is half the number of changes
you have to make.
Stop trying to die. Serve your time
Do your time.
Clean out the fridge
Throw away the soya milk. Soya milk
is made from children’s tears. Put
flowers on the table. Stand them in a
measuring jug. Chop raw vegetables if
you have them.
Know that if you are hungry for
something but you cant think what
you are, more often than not, only
When the blood in your body
Is weary to flow
when your bones are heavy though
if you have made it past thirty
and if you haven’t yet,
rejoice. Know that there is a time
coming in your life when dirt settles
and the patterns form a picture.
If you dream of the city but you live
in the country
milk the damn cows.
Sell the damn sheep.
Know that they will be wishing you well
posing for pictures on milk cartons or
running over lush hills to be counted
at the beginning of somebody else’s
See, they never held you back.
It was you, only you.
CLICK HERE to read the full interview