Selina Tusitala Marsh has edited Best NZ poems 2017 – the Pasifika way

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Yes!  What a breath of outstandingly fresh air. I love Selina’s approach to picking the poems – you need to read the whole piece here

And it is a crackingly good selection. I can’t wait to read and listen.  Some of my favourite reads from 2017 included. Content’s page here


From the intro:

‘I dedicate this last 12 months of choosing the ‘best’, to my friend and mentor, the late Associate Professor Teresia Teaiwa, whose Memorial Scholarship Fund continues to help give Pasifika peoples a choice.

Everybody loves free books (excluding my sons). I accepted this invitation to judge 2017’s batch of newly published poems because frankly, I wanted the books. I wanted to be able to map the latest constellation of Aotearoa’s poetry stars and navigate the various poetic journeys being offered from a particular time and place. I wanted to be inspired. After reading what seemed like, say, 3000 plus poems, I got what I wanted.

But I soon discovered that this was not an easy task. It wasn’t just a matter of reading a few poems and picking the ones I liked ‘best’. The sheer variety of form, tone, subject matter and lyricism soon problematised what I had thought was the ‘best’. Many a judge before me has acknowledged the impossibility of the task ahead. Most point to the bright sticky pink bubble gum of subjectivity that clicks and pops in the mouth whilst reading: ‘click, I like this one; pop, don’t like this one. Blow, I’m in my own bubble anyway.’ Presumably, this lets one off the hook. But I soon discovered that what I liked was too small a cage in which to read these free-range poems—just to further mix my metaphors in the post-euphoria of having climbed the Mt Everest of 2017’s poetic metaphors. Note to self: stop with the tongue in cheek stuff and get on with the serious business of writing this Introduction! (Aah, but whose tongue and in whose cheek?)

As a Pasifika Poet-Scholar, I wanted a more egalitarian way to ‘judge’ the ‘best’. I wanted to do something different, more collaborative, more epistemologically Pasifika—recalling Sia Figiel’s famously poetic passage nestled in the middle of her novel, Where We Once Belonged:

there is no ‘I’
only ‘we’

So, I decided to seek out the opinions, responses, reactions of the ‘we’ for a select numbers of poems that I hadn’t liked enough to include in my measly top 25. I gave out books and I gave out poems (with the payment that they could keep what they liked). My readers? Fellow Waiheke Trail Tribe runners, real estate agents, book club members, students, teachers, family members, people at the bus stop I saw often enough to bug. I asked them to give me 1-3 poems they liked and why.’


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Selina at the Tokotoko Laureate event.  Photo credit:  Fiona Lam Sheung






1 thought on “Selina Tusitala Marsh has edited Best NZ poems 2017 – the Pasifika way

  1. Both of us can't look's either me or the house

    A wonderful intro by Selina. A sense of being dead serious but the humour always so close to the surface. My congratulations to the poets in her selection. I also want to comment on the photo here provided by Fiona Lam Sheung which shows up the tuku tuku panel so brilliantly. Matahiwi Marae is renowned for its rich carving so to see the panel is a story of its own. As always many thanks to Paula for Poetry Shelf.



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