Our new Poet Laureate

28 August 2017
Photo by Billy Wong

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland, was named the country’s new Poet Laureate 2017 – 2019 during National Poetry Day on Friday 25 August.

“I’m honoured and humbled by this award,’’ Dr Marsh says. “It is a wonderful opportunity to extend the poetic page and stage to this nation’s multi-coloured, multi-hued voices.  Samoans have the to’oto’o, the orator’s staff, a symbol of the authority to speak on behalf of a group. 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.”

The Poet Laureate is one of the most prestigious national awards for New Zealand poets, recognising outstanding contributions to New Zealand poetry. Each Laureate is awarded $80,000 over two years by the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country. They also receive a carved tokotoko or orator’s stick, symbolising their authority and status.

“We are delighted to announce Selina as the country’s new Laureate,’’ says Chris Szekely, Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library. “She is an extraordinary poet, performer and literary advocate.”

Dr Marsh is the award-winning author of three collections of poetry, including her latest book, Tightrope (AUP) which was also launched on Friday at the University’s Fale Pasifika. She was Commonwealth Poet in 2016.

Dr Marsh was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland.  She is a strong advocate for Pasifika poetry and literature and lectures at the University of Auckland, specialising in Māori and Pacific Literary Studies and Creative Writing.

New Zealand’s first poet Laureate was Bill Manhire in 1996 and the outgoing Laureate for 2015-17 is the University of Auckland’s Emeritus Professor of English C.K Stead.

For more information on the Poet Laureate Award




Tess Redgrave| Media Relations Advisor

Faculty of Arts

Email: t.redgrave@auckland.ac.nz  

Tel: +64 9 373 7599 ext 87383

Mobile: +64 (027 5625868)


Editor’s notes

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh (1971 - ) is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish and French ancestry who lives on Waiheke Island.

Her first poetry collection, Fast Talking PI, published in 2009, won the 2010 NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry, and Best First Book at the 2010 New Zealand Book Awards. She is the author of two further poetry collections, Dark Sparring (2013) and her latest work, Tightrope, AUP (2017).

Her poetry has been published in more than 70 national and international anthologies, academic books, literary and scholarly journals and on various notable literary websites.  Since 2005 she has been invited to take part in more than 140 poetic performances, has led more than 110 workshops for community and professional organisations, spoken and mentored at more than 45 schools. Recent highlights include:

·         2017: Awarded Honorary Literary Fellow by the NZ Society of Authors, Waitangi Day Honours List

·         2016: As 2016 Commonwealth Poet she was commissioned to write and perform a poem before the Queen at the Commonwealth Day Observance in   Westminster Abbey on 14 March on behalf of the 53 Commonwealth member states.

·         2016: Recorded 20 poems with the prestigious UK-based The Poetry Archive, which receives 1.75 million visitors a year and grants access to 500 global poets.

·         The National Library calls for public nominations for the biennial award together with submissions from New Zealand libraries, universities and creative writing programmes. The Laureate is appointed by the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Chris Szekely, after consultation with the New Zealand Poet Laureate Advisory Group.