Anticipation should not always be tolerated but there is a blissful feeling that takes over when one checks the calendar and realise that its days away from ‘Upscale’s monthly poetry show’. Every first Tuesday of the month, Upscale Restaurant is filled to capacity with poetry lovers who come out to share a few words with their comrades or just to listen and enjoy this ever evolving art form. After 10 years of shows, Upscale Poetry nights are expanding with flows that captivate audiences and poets who make their microphones speak every time they touch the stage. So how did Upscale Poetry night really begin?
“It was the brainchild of Asafa George, and started as an intimate poetry show designed to educate people (through discussions) on the art form,” Yaphet Jackman: Upscale Poetry nights Coordinator explained. Jackman further stated: “Poets and literarians such as Dr.Ian McDonald, David Dabydeen and Petamber Persaud would meet and perform for an audience, then the poets would facilitate a discussion on what was presented,” he continued, “the vision has now totally evolved.”
The organisers realised the need for a new approach to the ‘poetry shows’, especially since the numbers that attended dwindled. The show eventually ceased in 2006 and the organisers returned to the drawing boards to re-sketch their poetic approach. With new management and a new coordinator for the shows, Upscale re-released its poetry with a bang in the latter part of 2007. This show was in collaboration with the Georgetown Jazz Project and Upscale Restaurant which featured poets such as: Jerome Hope, Rochelle Christie and Kojo McPherson.
“This show was the start of greatness for Upscale poetry and for poetry on the whole in Guyana,” Yaphet noted. He recalled that a distinguishing feature of that show was the music fused with poetry, “People were amazed that jazz and spoken words went so well together, but I thought the fusion was only natural.”
From the re-birthing to present, ‘Upscale Poetry nights’ have evolved into something the coordinators didn’t imagine. “For the first time poetry began to sell itself, so changes needed to be made to facilitate this progression.”
Yaphet, as the poetry night coordinator, along with Upscale Restaurant, decided to implement a committee in 2008, with the responsibilities of planning and organising the poetry nights, in an effort to keep the nights interesting. The committee started to make feature nights and poetry themes apart of the shows. An open microphone (Open Mic) segment was also permanently placed on the show’s agenda which served to encourage the younger poets to perform.
As with any show, the team faced many challenges, especially financial.
“At one point we began to take money out of our pockets to ensure that shows occurred each month, eventually we realised it was time to approach the business community.”
The team developed proposals and sold the idea to corporate Guyana. Businesses such as GT&T, King’s Plaza, Digicel and Ansa McAl who all began to support the art form and helped to financially develop the shows. Their support is still present today.
Since 2007, Upscale has had a poetry show every first Tuesday of the month, promoted the works of their poets on Youtube through “Xpress Yoself”, hosted a poetry slam competition in 2008, and has managed to build a very strong rapport with its poets, which encourages all to keep writing and keep performing.
In 2012, upscale currently has about 30 regular poets and many more that perform on the open mic segment. They also have taken poetry across borders by bringing “Freetown Collective” and Black Ice to our shores.Recently, Upscale Poetry launched its TV show: “Verses and Flow” and they have an active Youtube channel, facebook page and bbmchatroom.
So the next question is: “What does the future hold for Upscale poetry in Guyana?”
The answer: “Expect the unexpected. Our goal is to entertain and educate the masses about Poetry and we will do that on a local, regional, and international level in the future. So look out for us and keep supporting.”
You can visit Upscale Poetry nights at the Upscale Restaurant (32-33 Regent & Hinck Streets, Georgetown, Guyana), the first Tuesday of every month.
Feel free to visit their Facebook page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/#!/upscalepoetry?fref=ts