South London has traditionally been a fertile ground of black cultural expression and militancy. In recent years it has been home to a new wave of black poetry that picks up on the tradition of spoken word pioneers such as the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron.
Many political issues are put under the microscope of these new poets – economic crisis, war, gun violence, sexualities, sexual expression and sexism.
Now one of the scene’s most impressive voices, Lyrical Healer (aka Winsome Duncan), has brought out The Food Spiral, a book of confessional poems that lay bare her struggles with food addiction.
Lyrical Healer describes her insatiable and self-destructive lust for food – which leads to binging, obesity and self-loathing. The problem was so agonising that at some points she contemplated suicide.
The detail of these poems is at times deeply distressing – but this issue affects many women across the colour spectrum because of the demands for body perfection that society places upon us.
The book – which Lyrical Healer describes as a “spiritual, emotional and clinical journey” – has been championed in the black press. She has also been putting on school workshops using drama, poetry and song.
Together with her fellow singer and poet Floetic Lara, Lyrical Healer helped set up Inspire, one of the most successful open-mic nights on the new black poetry scene.
It regularly hosts some of the best new poets and rappers including Crisis, Realitie, Jack da Lad, Rumbi and Apocalypse. There seems to be no age barrier at the club and it is beautiful to see so many young people arming themselves with the weaponry of words.
Lyrical Healer’s tribulations ultimately lead her to revolutionary conclusions.
In her poem The Healer’s Philosophy she says, “Society is failing yet you can be a vital instrument in building a new society which is productive, financially secure, safe and supportive.”
The racism of the New World Order is impossible for people with a heartbeat to ignore – and it seems natural that folk are finding succour in poetry, one of the most ancient forms of expression.
The Food Spiral
Inspire is at Club Couture, 58 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 every Thursday.