Gabrielle Bates’s electric debut collection Judas Goat plumbs the depths of intimate relationships. The book’s eponymous animal is used to lead sheep to slaughter while its own life is spared, and its harrowing existence echoes through this spellbinding collection of forty poems, which wrestle with betrayal and forced obedience, violence and young womanhood, and the “forbidden felt language” of sexual and sacred love. These poems conjure encounters with figures from scriptures, domesticated animals eyeing the wild, and mothering as a shapeshifting, spectral force; they question what it means to love another person and how to exorcise childhood fears. All the while, the Deep South haunts, and no matter how far away the speaker moves, the South always draws her back home.
In confession, in illumination, Bates establishes herself as an unflinching witness to the risks that desire necessitates, as Judas Goat holds readers close and whispers its unforgettable lines.
"These poems are both generous and spare, full of unconventional portraits of longing—for safety, for love, for a motherhood one doesn’t truly desire. Bates is a wise, tender witness to the parts of ourselves we rarely expose." —Vulture
"The debut’s sequences on mourning, mothers, and marriage consider the ways in which encounters with nonhuman animals reveal the deception, purchase, and stakes of human behavior." —The Poetry Foundation
"I was once so terrified of my own contentment / I bit my shoulder / and drew blood,’ confesses a speaker in Gabrielle Bates’ stellar debut, Judas Goat, which thinks through our luck and lot with great humanity, grace, and precision. In disbelief, you’ll want to pinch yourself while reading . . . no need. Believe me, Judas Goat is just that good." —Nicole Sealey, author of Ordinary Beast
"A sharp-eyed debut." —Poets & Writers
"A stunner of a debut. . . . Haunted, funny, and profound." —Shondaland
"Hypnotic. . . . A deliciously (perhaps devilishly) original book." —The Millions
"A sensitive and assured voice. . . . a noteworthy debut, and confirmation of Bates’s talent, heart and place in contemporary poetry." —Chicago Review of Books