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Market Vendor - Painting by Guyana-born Artist Joan Bryan-Muss

Market Vendor – Georgetown – Guyana
Painting by Guyana-born Artist Joan Bryan-Muss


On March 8, 2014, we commemorated International Women’s Day. In my Poetry Corner this month, as a tribute to working mothers, I feature the poem “Wobbly Baskets” by Trinidad-born poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. Leaving her family behind, she left Trinidad at thirteen years old to live with her mother’s sister in Queens, New York. Eleven months later, her mother and brother joined her.

“Wobbly Baskets” captures well the plight of far too many working class women in Guyana and the Caribbean. She describes women who sell all kinds of food in the marketplace, straighten hair, wash clothes, and sew. Some go overseas to work and provide a better life for the children they leave behind. Focusing all of their energies on providing for their family, they give no thought to realizing their own dreams.

My mother was such a woman. She worked at home as a seamstress. Sometimes toiling day and night, with little or no sleep, she raised the school fees needed to send me and my four siblings to high school. Those were the days before the Guyana government had made education free from nursery to university.

My Haiku poem “Fractured” was not directly inspired by Boyce-Taylor’s poem but by the comments she made in an interview with Ana-Maurine Lara in March 2007:

[A] lot of my work has a big migration theme in it, because that was a time when I felt most fractured. Because migration is fracturing, and so I guess up until my last book, I was still working on that fracturing.

Read “Wobbly Baskets” and learn more about Cheryl Boyce-Taylor’s work at my Poetry Corner March 2014.