A spoken word performance group transcends traditional “poetry nights”
The scene is reminiscent of an intimate, 1930s Chicago nightclub with the audience tightly packed around the performer. Small tables decorated with petite flower arrangements play host to VIPs. Heavy black curtains envelope the room as if part of a monochromatic filter applied to the evening. Lights dim leaving behind splashes of red and blue—the only colors in the room. The announcer steps up cupping his hand around the mic—his deep voice signaling the show start. The crowd, now silent, waits anxiously for a poetry show unlike any other.
La-Tesia Poole, Erika Blackmon and Joshua Hubbard make up the creative collective behind PKS or Poetic KamaSutra, a poetry group defying open mic tradition. They decided to step away from the inflexible rules and restrictions governing most open mic shows and create their own show that allows participants the freedom to express their thoughts and emotions through a poem, a song, a dance or the spoken word—defined as “performance poetry” by Hubbard.
Due to the suggestive nature of their title, the PKS collective works hard to erase any preconceived notions that their show is “pornographic.” Hubbard explains, “We have a tasteful and respectful show. We are crafty hence the term ‘poetic kamasutra’—it’s about the positioning of words not [body] parts.”
Poole’s original idea to create an erotic poetry show came about in 2011. And like so many good ideas, she jotted it down in her notebook with a few ideal locations and tossed it aside.
Poole, the PKS visionary and marketing manager, got her start in the poetry world as a teen struggling with loneliness. Her family repeatedly uprooted and started over causing her to turn inward for comfort. She says, “I dove into words instead of people. I didn’t have a problem meeting people. I just got tired of meeting them, and then we moved.”
Two years after closing the book on her poetry show idea, Poole ran into Blackmon at another poetry site and propositioned her to help get the show up and running. She agreed, but a name was needed for their newly founded poetry group. Name after name was offered until PKS was born.
Blackmon, the PKS talent scout and promoter, claims that poetry found her in the 5th grade. “I truly hated it at first,” but goes on to admit, “[I] quickly realized its importance in my existence. Poetry is an emotional interpretation of life.”
Hubbard was brought into the fold to help broaden the scope of the show due to his background in poetry and his business acumen. “One of the biggest things that I think sets us apart from most, if not all, poetry shows is that we don’t put just anyone on stage.” Hubbard continues, “We encourage artists to develop their craft, to perfect themselves, to not just settle for whatever comes out of their mouth.”
Hubbard, the PKS business manager, found the power of words while serving in the military. Stationed in Fort Sill, Okla. in 1997, he began by documenting his time there mostly out of boredom, but it wasn’t long before others began to notice his writing abilities and requested his services. Troops with significant others back home asked Hubbard to pen love letters. The letters became very popular—even lucrative.
All three echo the same sentiment when it comes to their individual talent; they are all very different but value those differences and see how detrimental the differences are to the success of the poetry group. Blackmon enthusiastically admits, “I love creating show concepts and watching how the group morphs it and embellishes it with each of our individual talents making it a truly group-created show.”
The talent selected for each PKS show is handpicked. Not just anyone can walk in off the street and step up to the mic. However, an offshoot of the PKS show called Open Scribez is an open mic show catering mostly to locals and specifically to those who wish to get their feet wet in the poetry pool. The next Open Scribez show coming up August 13th at Barking Legs Theater is a milder version of the original giving folks a chance to warm up to the more flavorful PKS show.
Poole admonishes, “It’s more than just a poetry show—it’s a spoken word experience. You are not going to get that anywhere else in Chattanooga. We bust our butts to bring you a different type of show, and we want you to keep coming back. We want you to feel as though you are intimate with us.”