28 Aug 2017

New NZ poet laureate encourages other Pacific writers

3:18 pm on 28 August 2017

New Zealand's new Poet Laureate wants to encourage more Pacific writers to find their own unique voice through poetry.

Poet Selina Tusitala Marsh: her new collection of poetry is called Tightrope.

Poet Selina Tusitala Marsh: her new collection of poetry is called Tightrope. Photo: RNZ/Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, of Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish and French descent, takes up the two year national award that recognises outstanding contributions to poetry.

Dr Marsh's poetry has featured in dozens of books and publications.

Last year she performed one of her poems for Queen Elizabeth II.

She accepted the Laureate award on National Poetry Day at the launch of her latest book, titled Tightrope.

"Keep writing, believe in yourself - that unique thing that you have inside, let it shine.

"And like very early on, someone had said to me that 'oh you shouldn't rhyme in your poetry because it wasn't very sophisticated' and then I thought actually I don't want to be sophisticated, I want to be communicated.

"I want to be able to connect and touch people and if rhythm and rhyme is the way to do that, then I'm gonna do that."

Dr Selina Marsh also paid tribute to family including her late mother, who came to New Zealand from Samoa not speaking a word of English in her acceptance speech.

She takes up the prestigious award after renowned poet, CK Stead.

New Zealand Poet Laureate Award acceptance speech was a poem by Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh

I accept this award on behalf of the ten-year-old

at St Joseph's in Otahuhu

who found a word to rhyme with monocle

I accept this award on behalf

of Writers In Schools

whose powers are bionicle

I accept this award on behalf of Pasifika peoples

whose brown faces

aspire to higher places

I accept this award on behalf of women

whose hypothetical babies are born

while running political races

I accept this award on behalf of working class

who press against

windows of privilege

I accept this award on behalf of tangata whenua

-- without land,

you know it takes a village

I accept this award on behalf of those

for whom poetry induces vomit

I will woo you with haiku, spoken word, slam, rhyming couplet and sonnet

I accept this award on behalf of mum

who spoke no English

when she came from Samoa

I accept as her daughter

the award of New Zealand Poet Laureate

quite poetic - don't you think Aotearoa?