Collaborate and Create
A stunner, haunted, profound
Gabrielle Bates shares excerpts from critically acclaimed book
Introduction by Weston Ball
poetry excerpts by Gabrielle Bates

abrielle Bates ’13 is a rising figure in the world of poetry. With Bates’ debut collection, “Judas Goat,” receiving critical acclaim, her place as a prominent voice in modern poetry is solidified. Bates shares excerpts from what the Library Journal calls a “thrillingly bold” book, containing 40 poems that “plumbs the depths of intimate relationships and conjures encounters with figures from scriptures, domesticated animals eyeing the wild and mothering as a shapeshifting, spectral force,” published by Tin House.

“Judas Goat” was featured as a New York Times “The Shortlist” pick, a Chicago Review of Books “Must-Read” and was the “Most-Anticipated Book of Winter” from Vulture.

Bates shares the inspiration behind the book and excerpts from “Judas Goat”:

Gabrielle Bates in field posing next to mirror
The Toomer’s Oaks were poisoned while I was an undergraduate at Auburn, around the same time that I was falling in love with the person who would become my spouse, and so when I think back to my college years, I realize anew how much overlaps in life: connection and disconnection, sorrow and joy, public and private.

“The Lucky Ones”
I am warned against marrying
early love. I am also told
it works out, sometimes,

for saplings can be braided like hair.
We will bend and grow together
while the centuried oaks at Toomer’s Corner

hollow, and the college tree poisoner
brags on the radio. Your ring on my finger,
a single green stone, is alive

in the night, in the blue
glow of numbers above the stove…

Every poem I write about love is also about grief, and vice versa. I am always trying to come to a new understanding of the risks and rewards of love.
“In The Dream In Which I Am A Widow”
I have carried a portion of your ashes overseas
to the Spanish statue of the falling angel,
its snake of stone wrapped twice around one leg’s ankle
and coiled around the thigh of the other, stone jaw
unhinged and reaching for the humanesque hand.
We lived, remember? Briefly, near it. One wing arcs up in the sky
erecting an honest steeple, one that points not straight,
but upward and curving. As faith goes.
Back to earth…
In writing this poem, I was thinking a lot about the passing of time — how strange it is to hold past and future versions of ourselves, simultaneously! — and how bewildering, too, to be loved and witnessed across a decade, growing and changing in another person’s orbit.

A little boy’s starched white collar.
An insect traversing the curve.

Dusky pearls strung on a wire in my hair
wound low in a bow at the cerebellum,

the brain’s wing-shaped center for balance.
It’s April. There’s no balance here.

Not in the arch twisted from an ice storm-
struck tree, the bluegrass grabbing my lace.

Scent of smoked meats mingling with the sugar-sweet
confections just burst on the apples’ limbs.

Hands. Fingers. Ring of rough steel he bought
for $35, whose ends don’t fuse but overlap

like an overbite—the symbolism isn’t
lost on a woman like me:

There is a beginning and an end, April,
and one of us will go before the other…

I am always trying to come to a new understanding of the risks and rewards of love, and I try to write towards what haunts me, as a way of transforming fear into something else.

Gabrielle Bates with Judas Goat at Sewanee
To read the full poems excerpted here, check out “Judas Goat”.