Selina Tusitala Marsh
With warrior fierceness and perceptive humour, ‘Fast Talking PI’ Selina Tusitala Marsh upholds the mana of the Pacific as she walks the tightrope of tradition and culture.
We are what we remember, the self is a trick of memory . . . history is the remembered tightrope that stretches across the abyss of all that we have forgotten – Maualaivao Albert Wendt
Built around the abyss, the tightrope, and the trick that we all have to perform to walk across it, Pasifika poetry warrior Selina Tusitala Marsh brings to life in Tightrope her ongoing dialogue with memory, life and death to find out whether ‘stories’ really can ‘cure the incurable’.
In Marsh’s poetry, sharp intelligence combines a focused warrior fierceness with perceptive humour and energy, upheld by the mana of the Pacific. She mines rich veins – the tradition and culture of her whanau and Pacific nations; the works of feminist poets and leaders; words of distinguished poets Derek Walcott and Albert Wendt – to probe the particularities of words and cultures.
Selina Tusitala Marsh’s Tightrope takes us from the bustle of the world’s largest Polynesian city, Auckland, through Avondale and Apia, and on to London and New York on an extraordinary poetic voyage.
Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English and French descent. She was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from The University of Auckland and is now a lecturer in the English Department, specialising in Pasifika literature. Her first collection, the bestselling Fast Talking PI, won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry in 2010. Marsh represented Tuvalu at the London Olympics Poetry Parnassus event in 2012; her work has been translated into Ukrainian and Spanish and has appeared in numerous forms live in schools, museums, parks, billboards, print and online literary journals. As Commonwealth Poet (2016), she composed and performed for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. She became New Zealand's Poet Laureate in 2017.
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Awards and Nominations
Longlisted – Poetry Award – 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
Selina Tusitala Marsh draws on nursery rhymes, riddles, spells, Pasifika chants, popular song, rap – as well as on high modernist and postmodernist literature – to produce a new collection that is spiky and fierce, brash and vital, by turns, comic, irreverent, poignant, rhapsodic, anthemic, confrontational. – David Eggleton
I loved the fierceness and strength that Marsh invokes through her writing in Tightrope. Her recognition of identity and the multiple lines that create it is especially crucial in an ever-changing world. Marsh’s own pride is a stunning facet of her identity, and it shows through in her poetry. - Emma Shi, Booksellers NZ
From the early 'Led by Line' to the last verse 'Ka'ena: Leaping Point', connection and interconnection - of blood, word and experience - reigns. For instance, 'Unity', a poem Marsh performed for the Queen, considers the mutability and shared spaces found in the people, cultures and beliefs spanning the Commonwealth. While others, such as 'Apostles', 'Tantrum' 'Tightrope' and 'Like the Time You Were Four' overlap memory, encounter, family and struggle. One step away from grief we may be, but Tightrope also reminds us, particularly in its cadent, performative language, of the joys that make life worth living. - Siobhan Harvey, NZ Herald