New Zealand’s poet laureate rails against racism – but her poetry is more subversive than strident: ‘You can seduce someone to get your point across’
She blows in like a song carried on a powerful current: a wild-haired woman, larger than life, carrying a tall carved stick. She loses things in that hair, she says; finds pens in there days after they went missing.
A force of energy swirls around her as she sweeps into the Brisbane cafe, fresh from her daily 9km run. The stick is a tokotoko, a Māori symbol of status and authority, given to the celebrated scholar poet Selina Tusitala Marsh when she became New Zealand’s poet laureate in 2017. She carries it everywhere, a talisman not of war but of words.
Be a map
Marking the massacres
Uncharted rivers of blood
Be herded in shooting parties
Be left to rot in reserves
Be absent so your land can be mined
Have your bones lined up
In foreign museum cases for Scientific Enquiry
Be fired in your belly.