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Book Review: Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates

Updated: Mar 29

Gabrielle Bates’s Judas Goat is a stunning collection of forty poems that explores the complexities of intimate relationships. The book’s title animal serves as a metaphor for the themes that run throughout the collection: betrayal, forced obedience, and the violence inherent in young womanhood. Bates’s writing evoke vivid figures from scriptures, and domesticated animals that yearn for the wild. The collection is haunted by the Deep South, where the speaker is always drawn back home, no matter how far she travels.

“Growing up, I associated guilt with wanting anything”

The poems on mourning, mothers, and marriage are particularly striking, examining the ways in which encounters with animals reveal the worst of human nature. Bates writes with precision and heartbreak, exposing the inhumanity in our most intimate relationships. She creates a fantastical world of religious, mythic, pagan, and modern elements, which examine the violence in our world.

“When I stopped begging to be believed and started telling the truth, no man was there.”

Bates’s writing is masterful and intimate. The reader forms a relationship with the speaker. We learn about her relationships, she brings us into her setting. Gabrielle Bates is a poet of compassion and precision. Judas Goat is an amazing debut that will make you fall in love with her writing again and again.


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