Kyk-Over-Al (Part One)
- From the Guyana Chronicle's 'Pepperpot:'
Preserving our literary heritage
KYK-OVER-AL, Part One
1945 � 1961
By Petamber Persaud
THE makers and custodians of Guyanese Literature were ever conscious of the
need to preserve, to enhance and to promote our literary heritage, resulting
in numerous literary periodicals gracing various stages of our history.
The makers and custodians of Guyanese Literature were also cognisant of the
need to encourage emerging writers and to reward good writing.
What may be the first recorded call for a local literary prize can be found
in the second issue of KYK-OVER-AL, June 1946.
The Honorary Secretary of the British Guiana Writers� Association (BGWA),
James W. Smith, at that time suggested the establishment of a literary award
via The Leo Medal for poetry, The Webber Medal for fiction and The Clementi
Medal for non-fiction and drama.
Of interest too was the call by the President of the BGWA, H. R. Harewood,
for a Readers� Association �as a sort of complementary body� to the writers
forum as if to support what Seymour said early in his first editorial of
KYK, �there�s so much we can do as a people if we can get together more�. So
it seemed that the shapers of KYK were catering for every aspect of local
literature, a reflection of its success and longevity � 17 long years and 28
This is by way of leading up to the objectives of KYK which were �to forge a
Guyanese people, and make them conscious of their intellectual and spiritual
possibilities� and to record �the ferment of cultural activity in the West
Indies and its impact and influence on life in Guyana�.
To see those objectives more clearly it would be useful to locate KYK in its
After the Second World War that affected the British dependences in the West
Indies, there was a fermentation of a West Indian literature. That movement
was given direction by �the little review�, a title covering the periodicals
of the time including BIM of Barbados edited by Frank Collymore and FOCUS of
Jamaica edited by Edna Manley. �The little review� was also labelled the
�nursery of literature� for the West Indies. KYK is the only surviving
magazine of that period. And there are many reasons for its survival.
One of those reasons could be found in the quality and dedication of the
people involved in the production. KYK was published in conjunction with the
BGWA, British Guiana Union of Cultural Clubs (BGUCC) and the DFP Advertising
Service. Not much is known of DFP and its obvious role in the production of
the journal except that it was managed by J. E. Humphrey.
The two other organisations were powerhouses in the development of
literature and culture. The BGUCC was formed in 1943 as an umbrella body to
some 40 clubs from various parts of the country and consisted of a number of
well-respected members of society including N. E. Cameron (President),
Mildred Mansfield, C. I. Drayton, A. J. Seymour, E. A. Q. Potter, and Esme
Cendrecourt, among others.
The BGWA founded just after the BGUCC was formed consisted of members like
H. R. Harewood (President), W. I. Gomes, Seymour, among others. KYK-OVER-AL
was established as the organ of the BGWA and mouthpiece of the BGUCC which
were very active in cultural spheres of Guyana.
Another reason for the survival of the journal was that it functioned as an
outlet and platform for West Indian literature. This can be seen with the
publications of the works of Roger Mais, Edward Brathwaite, Aime Cesaire,
Frank Collymore, George Lamming, Una Marson, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Philip
Sherlock, Derek Walcott, and Harold Telemaque, among others. Within this
section will fall the invaluable articles on West Indian literature by
Seymour like �The Literary Adventure of the West Indies�, �The West Indies
of the Future and the Writer� and the �KYK-OVER-AL: Anthology of West Indian
The editor and the editorial advisory committee (another positive move)
which included Lloyd Searwar and others experimented with various aspects of
magazine production. For instance, in reference to timing, the release date
was brought forward to �less competitive� months, in reference to size, it
was reduced �for pockets and sachets�, and the book review section was
expanded to include review of art, film and drama.
Seymour also credited his wife, Elma, for her enormous help in advertisement
and marketing. Elma was a tower of strength and support to Seymour in his
literary and cultural endeavours.
Despite some criticism levelled against the magazine�s lack of critical
analysis, the strength of KYK was found in its scope and range in its
recording role, publishing some 500 poems, 400 articles, a few short
stories, symposia and colloquia, and scores of book reviews.
In poetry, adding to the above list of West Indian poets, is the local
impact coming from the pen of Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Jacqueline De
Weever, Edgar Mittelholzer, Edwina Melville, Ian McDonald, Ivan Van Sertima,
Milton Williams, among others.
In the field of fiction, there are samplings from Basil Balgobin, J. A. V.
Bourne, Jan Carew, Eugene Bartrum, Sheik Sadeek, among others.
While there are only three plays in the 28 issues of the magazine, the
articles on drama by N.E. Cameron, Rajkumari Singh, Ruby Samlalsingh, Frank
Thomasson, and Sara Veecook are very valuable.
KYK-OVER-AL (see over all), the magazine, was named after the ruined Dutch
fort of the same name on a small island near the confluence of the
Essequibo, Mazaruni, and Cuyuni Rivers as a watchtower for �the expression
of an alert people�. KYK went to sleep in 1961 but so good was its intent
and so valuable its impact, it was revived in 1984 under the editorship of
Seymour and Ian McDonald, moving to newer levels of scholarship.
(Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email:
Guyanese Literature Update:
1. THE GUYANA ANNUAL 2006/2007 is under production; for further information
please contact the editor at telephone number and email address listed
2. Under preparation by this author is A HANDBOOK OF GUYANESE LITERATURE.
Information supplied on any aspect of our literature will be duly