North American Stadiums
Winner of the inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, North American Stadiums is an assured debut collection about grace—the places we search for it, and the disjunction between what we seek and where we arrive.
“You were supposed to find God here / the signs said.” In these poems, hinterlands demand our close attention; overlooked places of industry become sites for pilgrimage; and history large and small—of a city, of a family, of a shirt—is unearthed. Here is a factory emptying for the day, a snowy road just past border patrol, a baseball game at dusk. Mile signs point us toward Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Salt Lake City, Chicago. And god is not the God expected, but the still moment amid movement: a field “lit like the heart / of the night,” black stars stitched to the yellow sweatshirts of men in a crowd.
A map “bleached / pale by time and weather,” North American Stadiums is a collection at once resolutely unsentimental yet deeply tender, illuminating the historical forces that shape the places we inhabit and how those places, in turn, shape us.
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Praise and Prizes
“[Chambers] records vivid details and creates an engrossing urban pastoral. . . . These distinctive poems deserve a wide audience.”
“Exquisite . . . Chambers executes a kind of magic that is perhaps unique to poetry: he conjures a moment from nothing, draws the reader inside, and disperses the spell with something as gentle as a shift in the wind direction, or a quiet revelation . . . A crackling first act by a promising new poet.”
“A book of landscape and memory, of travel and grit, North American Stadiums is more like the act of penance than anything else I have ever read . . . Smokestacks and forges, winter and jackknives, bodies broken, exhausted and fragile—these images, repeated throughout the collection, insist upon an interrogation of beauty, savor the hard details, speak always with a tang of blood . . . Above all, these poems seek to remember, record, and perhaps be forgiven along the way.”
“Fabulous . . . Each page is a breathing scene. . . . If memory serves anyone it certainly serves Chambers best, because it's impossible to stop reading this work. This should be the start of something big.”
“These are poems of memory and longing—compelling, lyrical, and unsettling. The furniture provided to memory is of the vistas, subway cars, and closed windows of different cities. The unsettling feeling comes with the revelation that for all the urban inventory, this is an American pastoral. A spacious glimpse of an old adventure: a poet pushing toward his own frontier. And Grady Chambers is a wonderful poet, equal to the task.”
“This powerful, absorbing first book has the sound and feel of a younger generation. Brilliant language, intelligence, and feeling make North American Stadiums matter. Factory lights, border patrol, gin, handguns, smoke stacks, and war are the geography of many of these eloquent poems, but the solitary poet is always scrutinizing the world with the eyes of a lover.”
“You can tell from the opening notes that Grady Chambers has chops. He can be rhapsodic—a Midwest rhapsody that includes light from port cranes and train horns in the Twin Cities. He can be elegiac—he’s a genius at departures and fingering the bones in the reliquaries of the open road. He’s got the traveler’s wandering [wondering] instinct and the [in] dweller’s intimacy. At work is a severe moral imagination and a filmic imagination ‘shining with something living / while it burns.’ What a privilege it is to receive the dispatches of this exceptional book.”
“The poems of Grady Chambers fill me with so much pleasure. Intimate histories that never shy away from their speaker’s complicity in sorrow but also in wonder. These are poems rooted in an idea we call America that understand what cost that naming comes with. What does it mean to make a pastoral of work you’ve never done? Chambers drives a stake into the heart of the patronizing pastoral we make of backbreaking work and unforgiving labor. What he comes up with? A poetry of the next chapter in our country’s search for meaning.”
“These poems reminded me in the best way of Denis Johnson, Walt Whitman, Philip Levine, and even Jack Kerouac. Reading North American Stadiums reminded me that there is always room, infinite room, for another great new poetic voice, a young soul searching for emotional truth, probing with sensitive emotion the hidden American places. As a matter of fact, I’d say we need this book right now. We need this new voice.”