Waiheke poet to perform her specially commissioned work at Westminster Abbey
Pacific poet Selina Tusitala Marsh is off to London to see the Queen.
The University of Auckland academic has been commissioned to write and perform a poem at the Commonwealth Day Observance in Westminster Abbey on March 14.
Tusitala Marsh, who lives on Waiheke Island, was initially approached by the Commonwealth Education Trust last November.
But she thought they were asking her to find a poet for the event and started compiling a list.
It was not until two-weeks later, when they asked again, that she realised they meant her.
The Commonwealth Day Observance service is the largest multi-faith annual celebration in Britain.
It is on the second Monday in March at Westminster Abbey.
The one-hour service includes a speech from the Queen and features a mixture of testimonies, readings, songs and musical performances.
For 2016, the theme is "An Inclusive Commonwealth", inviting people to consider the meaning of a diverse, fair and tolerant international community.
Tusitala Marsh was given a remit to write a poem that was non-political, appealed to children and adults, and kept to a strict three-minute limit set by the BBC for filming.
She says it was hard.
"Then, three weeks ago, sitting at my writing table, aka the kitchen bench, I began chanting a line.
"There's a 'U' and an 'I' in Unity, it costs the earth and yet it's free."
It sent her on a journey, linking the theme of unity around the world through conservation and conversation.
Her poem begins by linking London in the UK to London in Kiribati.
It then shifts to smallest Commonwealth nation Tuvalu and juxtaposes its ocean mastery alongside European expeditions.
Other elements in her poem, Unity, comprise Samoan philosophy, comparisons between opposites and conservation of the planet through conversations over a cuppa tea.
Tusitala Marsh will meet the Queen at a function in Marlborough House after the service.
The service will also be attended by the Head of the Commonwealth, High Commissioners, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and dignitaries from across the UK and Commonwealth as well as senior politicians and 1000 school children.