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August 20, 2019


#AWW2019 Selina Tusitala Marsh Poet Laureate NZ

by N@ncy


Selina Tusitala Marsh:

  1. Selina Tusitala Marsh is of Samoan, Tuvalu, English and French descent.
  2. She was the first Pacific Islander to graduate
  3. with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland and
  4. is now a lecturer in the English Department, specialising in Pacific literature.


  1. Oh, reading these poems with many
  2. Samoan words/references
  3. is going to be a challenge.
  4. Thank goodness….
  5. Ms Marsh has added a glossary for words the reader
  6. probably won’t understand.
  7. Thank you, poet laureate!


My notes on a few poems….


Googling TusitalaVery good…and clever!
Marsh has listed the choices Google returns
when she googles ‘Tusitala’.
Last line is the clincher that brings a laugh:
‘The tusitala bookshelf in
— there’s no wrong way to eat a rhesus.”
(BookCrossing is the act of releasing your books
“into the wild” for a stranger to find via the website)

Not Another Nafanua Poem – good
First I have to look up nafanua!
— Nafanua is the Samoan goddess of war

Afaksai (half-caste) – very good, rich with Samoan words!

Calabash Breakers – good

Hone Said – so-so..too cryptic…see glossary!

Things on Thursdays
Very good… should sound familiar to all struggling
female writers balancing family, work and writing!

Song for Terry – good…intriguing because I cannot discover who “Anne” is!

Langston’s Mother (very short poem…)

absolutely stunning because this poem led me to Langston Hughes’ poem
Mother To Son….breathtaking.

Mother to Son   (Langston Hughes)

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

(…if you don’t get ‘skin shivers after reading don’t have a pulse!)


Cardboard Crowns – very good
Sum of Mum – good, very clever!
Wild Horses – …need help understanding this one
Three to Four – intense…memories of a car accident
Le Amataga – not able to find something in this poem by myself…need the glossary!
Spare the Rod – This poem brings to mind ancient rock engravings…. not easy to grasp
A Samoan Star-chant for Matariki – too cryptic

…need more knowledge of Samoan words/myth
(In the Māori language Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster
and also of the season of its first rising
in late May or early June.
This is a marker of the beginning of the new year.)

Circle of Stones – Poems don’t have to be just understood…they can lead you to other things. This poem put in in touch with the Fale Pasifika at University of Aukland. Fale is the name a a Samoan building, the center of the community. On You Tube you can watch History of the Fale Pasifika….just filled with spiritual meaning for this University to let all Pacific people know they belong.

Guys Like Gaughin – very good…clever!
Nails for Sex – very good! This is based on history and is worth reading about before you start this poem…then it all will make sense!

Wikipedia HMS Dolphin 

Mutiny on Pitcairn – average

Two Nudes of a Tahitian Beach, 1894 – good…based on this painting by Gauguin

Venus in Transit – poem mentions many well known connections to Venus in Transit…..but who is Rowan? The poet refers to NZ author Rowan Metcalfe’s book Venus in Transit (2004). This novel tells the story from a new and unexpected perspective, that of the Tahitian women who joined the Bounty mutineers and sailed away with them to make new lives.

Realpolitik (expansionist national policy) -…reflecting on Capt. Cook/crew,  who brought disease to Tahitian women.

Contact 101 – how different people (philosopher, scientist, anthropologist) see South Pacific women

Has the whole tribe come out from England? – Wellington has been overrun by the British

What’s Sarong With This – pun…”What’s Wrong with This?” – very good, very intense!


The Curator – …description of a poem reading (Ms Marsh?) in a museum, sharp-edged.

Hawai’i: Prelude to a Journey – very good, glimpse of all sides of Hawaii and visitors….also a reference to a Hawaiian deity Pele, goddess of volcanos “…Pele’s pen, her black ink lava ever pricking the night.” There is so much in this poem you could spend some time investigating many aspects of this poem!

Touring Hawaii and Its People – very good….looking for ?? with a flowering crown in a museum. ( of the Hawaiian monarchy?)

Alice’s Billboard – strange….can’t make head or tails of this one, sorry!

Fast Talkin’n PI – (title poem) – Oh, I think I finally found who “ANNE” is if the poem….”Song for Terry”!

Fast Talking PI (pronounced pee-eye) = pacific islander
reflects the poet’s focus on issues affecting
Pacific communities in New Zealand, and
indigenous peoples around the world
… including the challenges and
…triumphs of being afakasi (mixed race).


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