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.
“[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 promising new poet.”
“These are poems of memory and longing—compelling, lyrical, and unsettling. 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.” —EVAN BOLAND
“This powerful, absorbing first book has the sound and feel of a younger generation.” —HENRI COLE