26 Aug 2017

First Pasifika woman to be awarded NZ Poet Laureate

12:27 pm on 26 August 2017

An Auckland poet and academic has become the first Pasifika woman to be chosen as New Zealand's Poet Laureate.

Selina Marsh reading one of her poems in the RNZ Auckland studio

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Selina Tusitala Marsh, of Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish and French descent, takes up one of the most prestigious national awards recognising outstanding contributions to New Zealand poetry.

Last year Dr Marsh was selected to be the Commonwealth Poet to perform for the Queen.

She has been awarded over US$57,000 or NZ$80,000 over two years by the National Library of New Zealand to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country.

She also received a carved tokotoko or orator's stick.

"To be recognised in this way is breath-taking. To occupy the role is breath-giving - I can't wait to take the Laureate's tokotoko to the people and make poetry," Dr Marsh said in a statement.

Watch Selina Tusitala Marsh performs 'Pussycat' (with the help of Wallace Chapman):

Dr Marsh was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland.

A strong advocate for Pasifika poetry and literature, Dr Marsh lectures at Auckland University, specialising in Māori and Pacific literature.

She is the award-winning author of three collections of poetry, including her new book, Tightrope, which was launched on Friday.