New Zealand's latest Poet Laureate received a special gift during a ceremony at a Hawke's Bay marae this morning.

Selina Tusitala Marsh was presented with her own tokotoko (carved walking stick) created by Haumoana artist Jacob Scott in front of more than 100 people at Matahiwi Marae.

Each Laureate is presented with their own tokotoko, which symbolises the authority and status of a Poet Laureate, made by Scott.

The poet gave Scott a number of taonga (treasures) to be used in the creation of the tokotoko including a Samoan fue (fly whisk), pounamu and stones.

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Selina Tusitala Marsh being welcomed onto Matahiwi Marae by Des Ratima. Photo/Duncan Brown
Selina Tusitala Marsh being welcomed onto Matahiwi Marae by Des Ratima. Photo/Duncan Brown

Tusitala Marsh said she was overwhelmed with emotion when presented with the tokotoko.

"It's not often that the Tusitala is lost for words but the stories that are woven and carved in this tokotoko and fue are very humbling for me to receive."

The fue, which sits atop the tokotoko and can be removed, was given to Tusitala Marsh as a symbol of "clearing the air of any ill intention and any evil spirits in order that the orator's message can be heard and received in the hearts of the receiver".

Two stones were also embedded into the tokotoko, one from her grandfather's village in Samoa and another from the tombstone of Robert Louis Stevenson.

National Librarian Bill McNaught, of the National Library of New Zealand which appoints the Poet Laureate, said he wanted to acknowledge the craftsmanship Scott put into each tokotoko he created which helped give more mana to each Poet Laureate.

It was also fantastic to have Tusitala Marsh as the current Poet Laureate and McNaught wished her every success, he said.

While the poet's tokotoko was being created she temporarily had the matua tokotoko which was given back to McNaught during the ceremony.

Selina Tusitala Marsh returning the matua tokotoko to National Librarian Bill McNaught. Photo/Duncan Brown
Selina Tusitala Marsh returning the matua tokotoko to National Librarian Bill McNaught. Photo/Duncan Brown

Hawke's Bay poet Marty Smith, who spoke at the event, said Tusitala Marsh is regarded with as much mana within the poetry community as outside it.

"She's a great source of inspiration for me."

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The Auckland-based poet and scholar, of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English, Scottish and French descent, is the first Pasifika Poet Laureate in New Zealand and was also the first person of Pacific descent to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland.

She now lectures in both creative writing and Maori and Pacific literary studies and lives on Waiheke Island with her husband David and their three sons aged 15, 17 and 19 years old.

For a two-year period each Poet Laureate is supported by the Alexander Turnbull Library to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country.