Poets of the Caribbean

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My look at poets of the Caribbean reveals a story hidden by the big, all inclusive resorts such as The Breezes, Sandals and Atlantis.

This poem by Guyanese (British) novelist, poet, editor, anthologist, academic and critic David Dabydeen is about the struggles of East Indians in Guyana. It’s from his dramatic collection Coolie Odyssey: another side of the Caribbean immigration experience.

Coolie Mother

Jasmattie live in bruk –

Down hut big like Bata shoe box,

Beat clothes, weed yard, chop wood, feed fowl

For this body and that body and every blasted body,

Fetch water, all day fetch water like if the whole –

Whole slow-flowing Canje River God create

Just for she one own bucket.

Till she foot bottom crack and she hand cut up

And curse swarm from she mouth like red-ants

And she cough blood on the ground but mash it in:

Because Jasmattie heart hard, she mind set hard.


To hustle save she one-one slow penny,

Because one-one dutty make dam cross the Canje

And she son Harilall got to go to school in


Must wear clean starch pants, or they go laugh at he,

Strap leather on he foot, and he must read book,

Learn talk proper, take exam, go to England


Not turn out like he rum-sucker chamar dadee.

Here’s a New York Times story about Exxon Mobile’s impact on the people of Guyana.