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2015 - Winner
Writing about late poems the American poet WS Merwin says they are ‘made of words/ that have come a long way’. This is the feeling one gets reading Earth Hour, that the words have been distilled from a lifetime of writing across the major genres. As late poems do, they recall past times and worlds, and absent friends, but there is also undiminished exuberance and appetite for life, and consoling glimpses of ‘a green original anti/-Eden from which we’ve never been expelled’.
The collection as a whole shimmers with the radiance of a lived and remembered life, the glow of poems recollected in serene joy and pleasure, restoring lost moments and faces in the light of the contemplative present. Malouf plays the music of memory with unerring graceful and verve, his touch sure, elegant and delicate in miniatures like ‘Toccata,’ with its haunting last line: ‘In the ghost of fingerprint all/ that touched us, all that we touched, still glowing actual.’ The elegiac note is accompanied by an attentive delight in cityscapes as well as the natural world, celebrating the breathtaking and sometimes terrifying beauty of the earth, ‘our green accommodating tomb’.
Earth Hour is a work of deep maturity and wisdom. The poems shimmer with lyric grace, combining Mozartian verve and Horatian rigour. They are memorable acts of witnessing, affirming the value of human song-making, as the lieder-like lyric “Nightsong, Nightlong” declares: “I’m here. I’m still here./ Still now and listen.” It is a collection to read, or rather, listen to, again and again, as much for its rich, varied music, as for the resonant beauty of its “late words.”