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Jorie Graham Wins the Laurel Prize
Friday, 22 Sep 2023
We're thrilled to announce that To 2040 by Jorie Graham has won the 2023 Laurel Prize! Jorie was announced as the winner at the BBC's Contains Strong Language Festival in Leeds, on Friday 22nd September.
The Laurel Prize is an annual award for the best collection of nature or environmental poetry to highlight and raise awareness of the climate crisis. The prize is funded by Simon Armitage's Laureate honorarium, which he receives annually from the King, and is run by the Poetry School. This year's judges are poets Pascale Petit and Nick Laird, and journalist and presenter Reeta Chakrabarti.
To 2040 begins with question masquerading as fact: 'Are we / extinct yet. Who owns / the map.' These visionary new poems reveal Graham as historian, cartographer, prophet, plotting an apocalyptic world where rain must be translated, silence sings louder than speech, and wired birds parrot recordings of their extinct ancestors. In one poem, the speaker is warned by a clairvoyant, 'the American experiment will end in 2030'. Graham exposes a potentially inevitable future, sirens sounding among industrial ruins. In sparse lines that move with cinematic precision, we pan from overhead views of reshaped shorelines to close-ups of a burrowing worm.
Here, we linger, climate crisis on hold, as Graham invites the reader to sit silent, to hear soil breathe. To 2040 is narrated by a speaker who reflects on her own mortality – in the glass window of a radiotherapy room, in the first 'claw full of hair' placed gently on a green shower ledge. 2040 as both future and event-horizon: the reader leaves the book warned, wiser, attentively on edge. 'Inhale. / Are you still there / the sun says to me'. The title poem asks, 'what was yr message, what were u meant to / pass on?'
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