New Zealand’s new Poet Laureate announced

25 August 2017
Selina-Tusitala-Marsh-poetry-day
Photo credit: Emma Hughes

New Zealand’s Poet Laureate for 2017–19 is Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh.

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.

Marsh was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland. She is the award-winning author of three collections of poetry, including her latest book, Tightropewhich is also launched today. She was Commonwealth Poet in 2016.

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

‘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.’

‘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 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.

New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate was Bill Manhire in 1996 and the outgoing Laureate for 201517 is C.K Stead.

Members of the 2017 Advisory Group are: James Norcliffe, a writer and poet from Christchurch; Michele Leggott, a former New Zealand Poet Laureate; Dr Anna Smaill of the English Department at Victoria University; and Toby Buck, representing Te Mata Estate, founders of the Laureate Award in 1996.

More information on the Poet Laureate Award is available here.