NZ Poet Laureate receives tokotoko

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Matahiwi Marae in Hawke's Bay has celebrated the achievements of the current New Zealand Poet Laureate Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh with a special tokotoko ceremony to recognise her outstanding contribution to New Zealand poetry. 

Her work has been widely published in over 70 literary journals and anthologies, both national and international.

"You dig out the taonga in each and every moment and action and object and then you just give it a song," explains Tusitala Marsh.

She has been presented with a special carved tokotoko from Kahungunu master carver Jacob Scott at Matahiwi Marae in Clive.

"What will happen is what this tokotoko is about, it's not definitive, it's about opportunity and possibility and game changing," says Scott.

Tusitala Marsh was the first person of Pacific descent to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland and will be awarded $80,000 as part of the award to promote poetry throughout the country.

"It is absolutely surreal and what keeps my heel to the earth is remembering where I've come from which is my grandfather the original Tusitala and he was a really humble man and so I come back down to the earth, I fly into the heavens but I always come back down to earth with my family," she says.

The laureate is the most prestigious poetry award to be given in New Zealand and has been handed out every two years since 1996.