A collection of poems in two volumes with individual reflections on family, friends, life and the beauty of the Solomon Islands.
I was thrilled to find this collection of poems by Solomon Islands author Roselyn Osiabu Efawane Maneipuri over a year ago when I was searching for picture books from another island nation in the South Pacific, Tonga. As is explained in the foreword to the collection, although poetry exists in Pacific indigenous communities in art, songs and dances, there is ‘a dearth of poetry written in English, about Oceanic cultures and people’. I’ll admit that Fula’alo isn’t strictly a picture book, although the poems are accompanied by some wonderful photographs showcasing the beauty of the Solomon Islands. Truth be told, I haven’t actually found many picture books by Solomon Islands authors/illustrators.
Fula’alo (Rainbow) comprises two volumes of poetry written by the author over a period of 40 years. (I wish I had ordered the second volume as well.) The poems are grouped across the two volumes according to style in seven separate sections, each one introduced by a colour of the rainbow. Volume 1 includes three colours (red, orange and yellow) and three different poetic styles, acrostic poems, free verse and prose poems, with a brief overview of each style at the beginning of the section. Notes on teaching strategies that have been tried and tested by the author are provided at the end of the volume.
On reading the poems, I was struck by the author’s deep love and appreciation for the place she calls home. The beauty of the Solomon Islands is evoked throughout the collection in a variety of ways, including sights, scents and sounds. In ‘Looking through my window’ for example, she refers to ‘The isolated island/So tiny, yes tiny!/Untouched, remote, empty/Yet lovely!’ And in ‘Small Malaita’, she watches ‘the moody sea roar and roll/The fireflies twinkle and the crickets chirp.’
Love of parents, family and friends also shines through the collection. One of the acrostic poems, titled ‘For Mum and Dad’ is a beautiful tribute from the author to her parents, where she shows their strength of character and what they mean to her. The poem that follows ‘Thank you for being friends’ is a lovely piece that reveals the author’s thoughts on friendship:
‘Faithful and patient friend every day/Open and frank are the words you say/Reprimanding me in love all the way.’
Spirituality is also a key theme, with references to ‘God, ‘Our Lord’ and the ‘Creator’ scattered throughout the collection. Christianity is the main religion in the Solomon Islands, I discovered.
Many of the poems mention places and things that are specific to the islands, including names of rivers, local places, cultural objects and individual island names. As such, they will no doubt have greater resonance for Solomon Islanders or those that have visited this area of the world. They are, however, a wonderful source of enjoyment and discovery for those unfamiliar with the islands (like me!) Other poems have more universal appeal, such as ‘I love sunsets’ where the author explores the feel and look of the setting sun and the memories it evokes. Or ‘Aim for the sky’ where she encourages readers to reach high and face the challenges that come their way.
I particularly enjoyed the free verse section where the flow of words is not constrained by form. Take these evocative lines from ‘It’s only memories’: ‘Memories are like scars/That once hurt deeply/Or they are like sweet dreams/Flapping by on butterfly wings.’
Fula’alo is a beautifully evocative collection of poems. I think the complex language, imagery and emotional content of many of the poems are more suited to older children and adults, but some would work well, even as read-alouds with younger children.
Fula’alo (Rainbow): A Collection of Poems (Volume 1) by Roselyn Osiabu Efawane Maneipuri (Institute of Education, The University of the South Pacific, 2016)
Roselyn Osiabu Efawane Maneipuri is an author and academic who has been writing poetry for over 40 years. She was born in Malaita Province in Solomon Islands. She currently works at Solomon Islands National University.