Yrsa Daley-Ward

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Yrsa Daley-Ward
Born1984 (age 36–37)
OccupationWriter, model and actor
Notable work
Bone (2014);
The Terrible (2018)
Awards2019 PEN/Ackerley Prize

Yrsa Daley-Ward (born 1984) is an English writer, model and actor.[1][2] She is known for her debut book, Bone, as well as for her spoken-word poetry, and for being an "Instagram poet".[3][4] Her memoir, The Terrible, was published in 2018,[5] and in 2019 it won the PEN/Ackerley Prize.[6] She also co-wrote Black Is King, Beyoncé's musical film and visual album which also serves as a visual companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift[7]

Life and career[edit]

Yrsa Daley-Ward was born to a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father in Chorley, Lancashire, in Northern England, where she grew up with her grandparents, who were devout Seventh-day Adventists.[1]

In her late teens and early 20s Daley-Ward was a model, "struggling to pay her rent in London, working for brands such as Apple, Topshop, Estée Lauder and Nike".[8] In search of better opportunities, she found the money to buy a ticket to South Africa, where she eventually lived for three years, and has said: "The thing that attracted me to South Africa was that the models look like me and there's so much more diversity".[9]

In her mid-20s, she began to perform and get recognized for her poetry in Cape Town, South Africa, while also working as a model. Not long after returning to London in 2012, she was invited back to South Africa to work alongside the British Council headlining two poetry festivals in Johannesburg.[10]

Daley-Ward was then listed as one of the top five female writers to watch for by Company Magazine.[11]

Daley-Ward is known for her short poems on topics such as identity, race, mental health, and femininity.[12] She is also known for being vocal on topics of depression, and for her poem entitled "Mental Health," which was published in her book Bone. First self-published in 2014, and subsequently issued by Penguin Books in 2017 with additional poems and an introductory essay by Kiese Laymon, Bone has been described by Hanif Abdurraqib in The Atlantic as an "impressive debut" that "honestly excavates a writer’s life, not simply presenting pain, but also showing an individual working through it."[13]

While she is now better known for her poetry, both written and spoken, before releasing Bone in 2014, she released a book of short stories entitled On Snakes and Other Stories in 2013.[12]

Daley-Ward has used social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter in order to promote her work and connect with her fans. She also made an appearance in a TEDx Talk[14] conference with her talk Your Stories and You.[15]

Daley-Ward identifies as a young, black, LGBTQ+ female, who is also an activist and feminist. In her writings she has been known to openly discuss her relationships with women, and has even become a poster child for the LGBTQ+ community, but she refuses to make her sexuality a big deal. She insists that her poems are meant for people of all sexual preferences.[8]

Daley-Ward has been quoted as saying: "If you're afraid to write it, that's a good sign. I suppose you know you're writing the truth when you're terrified". In an interview with ELLE, she talks openly about her past and struggles along her own journey in developing thicker skin in the face of criticism.[16]

In June 2018 her new book The Terrible was published, a coming-of-age memoir that The Evening Standard called "a rare combination of literary brilliance, originality of voice and a narrative that commands you to keep going until you’ve reached the last page",[17] while the reviewer for The Sunday Times described Daley-Ward as "a stylish writer, as well as an unusual voice".[18] The same month, Daley-Ward discussed her life on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour and read her poem "Poetry".[19] In 2019 The Terrible won the PEN/Ackerley Prize.[6]


2019 World on Fire (miniseries) Connie Knight Series 1



  • On Snakes and Other Stories (3:am Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0957357181)
  • Bone (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014; Penguin (Particular Books), 2017, Foreword by Kiese Laymon, ISBN 978-1846149665)
  • The Terrible (Penguin, 2018, ISBN 978-1846149825)


  • "Mental Health", Bone

Acting work[edit]

Also appeared in:


  1. ^ a b Yrsa Daley-Ward at Penguin Random House.
  2. ^ a b "Yrsa Daley-Ward". IMDb. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  3. ^ Guest, Katy (8 June 2018), "The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward review – a wincingly honest coming-of-age memoir", The Guardian.
  4. ^ Waldman, Katy (13 June 2018), "Yrsa Daley-Ward Breaks Out of the Instapoetry Pack with Her Memoir 'The Terrible'", The New Yorker.
  5. ^ "Yrsa Daley-Ward" at Amazon.
  6. ^ a b Chandler, Mark (10 July 2019), "Daley-Ward wins PEN Ackerley Prize", The Bookseller.
  7. ^ Thompson, Rachel. "Beyoncé drops breathtaking 'Black Is King' visual album with cameos from all the family". Mashable. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b Barlow, Eve (4 September 2017). "Yrsa Daley-Ward: 'People are afraid to tell the truth'". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  9. ^ Rumble, Taylor-Dior, "Yrsa Daley-Ward: The model who turned her pain into poetry", BBC News, 7 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Yrsa Daley-Ward « The British Blacklist". www.thebritishblacklist.com. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  11. ^ Thomas-Bailey, Carlene, "Five female authors you NEED to know", Company magazine, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Matshego, Lebogang. "Ten Female Contemporary African Poets", Africa.com. Accessed 20 March 2017.
  13. ^ Abdurraqib, Hanif, "Yrsa Daley-Ward’s Powerful, Poetic Distillations", The Atlantic, 31 December 2017.
  14. ^ "TEDx Talks". YouTube. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Your stories and you: Yrsa Daley-Ward at TEDxSquareMile2013", TEDx Talks video, 2 December 2013.
  16. ^ "Instagram Poet Yrsa Daley-Ward On Self-Love, Short Attention Spans And The Best Time To Write". ELLE UK. 12 October 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  17. ^ Van Praagh, Anna, "The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward - review: a must-read memoir from an explosive new talent", Evening Standard, 31 May 2018.
  18. ^ Angelini, Francesca, "Review: The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward — the life struggles that made her an Instapoet", The Sunday Times, 3 June 2018.
  19. ^ Presenter: Jane Garvey; Producer: Kirsty Starkey; Interviewed guest: Yrsa Daley-Ward (4 June 2018). "Queens of Industry, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Northern Ireland and abortion". Woman's Hour. 24:48 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio Four. Retrieved 4 June 2018.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]