Grady Chambers is the author of North American Stadiums (Milkweed Editions), selected by Henri Cole as the winner of the inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from the The Paris Review, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Grady was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing, and he lives in Philadelphia.
How important is music to your poetry?
I'm reading "music" here to mean the music of the poem itself. Thought about that way, my attention to the music of my poems--the rhythm and sounds of the lines and words--is far less than it used to be. When I was in graduate school--six, seven years ago now--I was spending a lot of time with the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the incredible music of his poems led me to give a great deal of attention to the music of my own. When I would finish a draft of a piece, I would record myself reading it aloud. I would then play the recording back to myself. I felt l could tell where it needed work based on when I sensed it lost its rhythm / momentum.
Over time, I've done that less and less. I think at some point I sensed that my desire for the words and rhythm to sound a certain way got in the way of the poem expressing what I wanted it to. I still sometimes record myself reading new drafts and play them back to myself, but now I think I'm listening more for pacing than I am for the internal music or rhythm of a line.