What a lovely name for an anthology of poetry – Rainbow World: Poems from Many Cultures (Hodder Children’s Books, 2003). Edited by Bashabi Fraser and Debjani Chatterjee, and illustrated by Kelly Waldek, it brings together more than 80 poets, focusing “on the voices of Black and Asian poets from Britain, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and the continents of Asia and Africa”. The poems are divided into different sections – I’ve chosen extracts today from poems in the first and last “chapters” – firstly, from ‘Who’s Who – race, culture and identity’, part of the poem “a ‘coloured’ girl, I sleep with rainbows” by Lucinda Roy:
I am black. I am white.
I am the colour of the sun at noon.
I breathe with the sea.
For coloured girls who sleep with rainbows
there is light in the spittle of strangers.
My father, as black as brown can be;
my mother as white as the half-moons in his nails.
I am their tangible kiss.
And, from ‘The Last Word – peace and harmony’, part of a poem called “The Unknown You Have Made Known to Me” by Rabindranath Tagore from India, translated by Debjani Chatterjee:
I fear to leave a place I know of old,
Who knows what the future will unfold?
I forget the simple truth that within
The new, you are the familiar.
You have brought the distance near, my friend,
And made a brother of the stranger.
To read the rest of these poems, get hold of this superb anthology – mine came from my local library. It’s chockablock with poems that are soul-searching, identity-searching, thought-provoking, whimsical, catchy and just plain fun.