Every so often, alarm bells get rung about the possibility that poetry is dead. These arguments usually get stuck in the grooves of what poetry should and shouldn’t do; whether its moment has passed; whether it has enough of a contemporary readership. Such critiques tend to miss the upside of poetry’s shifting entry points, which have made it, as a language, all the more readily accessible, and global. This change in access includes, of course, the internet and the way poets have figured out how to exist on it—particularly on social media sites, where their work can reach thousands of people with immediacy, without needing to be accepted to a journal or undergo a waiting period before publication.
Yrsa Daley-Ward is, in a sense, one of these poets. Born in England to Jamaican and Nigerian parents, she creates aching and touchable work that illuminates life’s interior emotional movements with nuance and long-lingering imagery. She’s also among those—like Rupi Kaur and R.M. Drake—who have figured out how to use Instagram to their advantage. (I hesitate to use the term Instagram poet, as it has become a dismissive way to address practitioners who use the platform to extend their reach.) Daley-Ward’s debut collection, bone, was first self-published in 2014 and rereleased this fall, with additional poems and an elegant introductory essay from the essayist Kiese Laymon.