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Intellectual Bad Gyal Unleashed at Poetry Society

Cherry Natural at the launch of Intellectual Bad Gyal

Dub poet Cherry Natural, let loose her latest collection of poetry, Intellectual Bad Gyal, at the June installment of the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s monthly fellowship. One of the stalwarts of that love child of reggae and poetry - dub poetry - Cherry Natural has had a reasonably low profile on the Jamaican poetry scene in the last few years. The release of Intellectual Bad Gyal therefore marks her return and a reclaiming of her space in dub history.

The album, and the title poem in particular, continues her stance of verbal and physical militancy. The collection features poems tackling a broad cross-section of topics including physical abuse, the economic disenfranchisement of poets and the patriarchal rule of the microphone.

The launch event, which saw an impressive turn out, took place on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at the Amphitheatre, Edna Manley College, highlighting Cherry Natural’s long association with the Society.

"She's writing from the marrow, from the inside," said Tommy Ricketts when in his introductions. Ricketts said that a defining element of Cherry Natural’s poetry is that she writes from her experiences.

Prof Mervyn Morris (far left) and Raymond Mair (far right) and their wives were among those who turned out to the launch"Loyalty thicker than blood," Cherry Natural declared, borrowing a line from ‘Intellectual Bad Gyal’ to thank the audience for their support, especially those who had been with her over the years.  

She delved into the first piece, the title poem, which married her lyrical dexterity and her skills in the martial arts, both of which are used to wage a war marked by battles without bloodshed.

"I will take you out of you bed/ Use words to lift off yuh head,” she chanted.

Though the poem is a little unwieldy, there are several poignant lines within it, and it served as an energizing piece with which to open her performance.

"A you name name weh you name," one woman in the audience yelled when Cherry Natural completed the poem.

For her next piece, 'Poets Fi Get Pay' Cherry Natural hit a chord which resonated with many in the audience. The poem raises the issue that poets are often treated like the poor cousins of musicians and are expected to work without compensation. Before the end of the piece she had the audience chanting the hook along with her.

"My tongue is JPS lighting up your mind/ so don't bridge it," the poet declared and the audience hooted their aggrement. Afua Cooper performs 'Africa Wailin'

Cherry Natural then struck a blow at male privilege on the poetry scene. The piece, dubbed ‘Man Show’ hit out at insufficient representation of women on the stage. In a double edged bit of word play, the poet pointed out though many declared themselves homophobic, they seemed to be in love with “mic”.

She continued the trend of speaking for women with ‘Fight Back’, a piece on physical abuse. According to Cherry Natural, who has a black belt in multiple disciplines of the martial arts, spousal abuse is often condemned but women are not taught how to contend with it. Her advice was simple, learn self defense.

When a few men in the audience demanded that she show them 'The Phoenix', one of the moves she  mentions in the poem, she laughingly replied that only an abusive man need to know it, because only he would experience it.

Then she decided to delve into the romantic, casting aside the “fatigues” for some “lingerie”. Again she carried the audience with her, especially when she used the piece to woo fellow poet and journalist Mel Cooke.

Cherry Natural then turned to further inequalities in the dub poetry landscape. She pointed out  that when dub poetry is written about only four names are ever called, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka, Oku Onuora and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. She argued that there were many others who had played a significant role in the genre’s development, and used this to invite Afua Cooper to the stage.

Cooper, currently based in Canada and one of the organizers of the Dub Poetry Festival, delivered ‘Africa Wailin’ which she explained that although it was written at a party in Toronto it could be a description of black people everywhere.

Cherry Natural closed her night with special requests from the audience. Thus she ended with one of her older works ‘Stop the Madness’ which speaks to rampant violence in the society.

Cherry Natural’s released the previous collection of poetry is Earth Woman, of which there is an audio and printed version.