Auckland Poet Bound For London’s Poetry Olympics   2 May 2012

The University of Auckland’s Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh is taking part in the largest gathering of the world’s poets in history.

Poets, rappers, spoken word artists, singers and storytellers are gathering for the Poetry Parnassus festival in London from 26 June to 1 July.

It will feature poetry from each of the 204 nations competing in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Dr Marsh will represent the country of her maternal grandfather’s birth, Tuvalu. She was selected from 6,000 public nominations made for the event.

“Vaelei Tusitala is my grandfather’s name. He was born in Tuvalu and moved to Samoa to study at Malua Theological College. Tusitala means teller of tales. It’s a legacy handed down to me from my grandfather,” Dr Marsh says.

The Poetry Parnassus is an opportunity for Dr Marsh to tell tales about Tuvalu on a global stage. She will perform a sequence about the impact of global warming on one of the world’s lowest lying nations.

“I hope to bring awareness and understanding to a beautiful island nation, its peoples and its ways. I will also perform poems based on diasporic perspectives on the faatele, a customary Tuvalu dance. It’s a privilege to represent my grandfather’s island and I hope my voice honours Tuvaluans everywhere.”

Dr Marsh, from the Department of English, is a celebrated Pacific poet. Her first collection of poems, the award-winning Fast Talking PI, appeared in the New Zealand Bestseller List in 2009 and won the New Zealand Post Jessie McKay Best First Book Award in 2010.

Her research at the University concerns pioneering Pacific women writers, who she says were influential in giving a voice to Pacific women and children as a means of empowerment in a largely male-dominated post-colonial era.

She was the University’s first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English, where she now currently teaches papers on New Zealand and Pacific Literature, and Creative Writing.

Dr Marsh established and coordinates Pasifika Poetry, an online hub celebrating the poetry of tagata o te moana nui, the peoples of the Pacific. Visit

As part of the festival poets will perform at free events, and will contribute a poem to a landmark anthology to be published celebrating the gathering.

Poetry Parnassus is part of the London 2012 Festival, a 12-week celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world to the UK.

(University of Auckland)

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