Judas Goat


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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.


  • 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

  • A sharp-eyed debut.

    —Poets & Writers

  • Elegant. . . . Bates moves fast, faces grim truths and draws hard lines.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • Ravishing.

    —Garden & Gun Magazine

  • A  stunner of a debut. . . . Haunted, funny, and profound.


  • Bates fills her debut with intense imagery and surprising truths. . . . These yearning poems offer intriguing descriptions and insights.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • Gabrielle Bates is a poet we’ll be reading for a very long time. Eyes forward, one hand always behind, bringing history in from the shadows, Bates offers in her poems lessons on how to move forward toward health and safety, and a thriving creative and emotional-spiritual interior, without letting go of who we are and where we came from, painful though it can be to bring ourselves, fully, into the light.

    —The Rumpus

  • Hypnotic. . . . A deliciously (perhaps devilishly) original book.

    —The Millions

  • Lives on the blade-edge between forebears Carl Phillips and Brigit Pegeen Kelly—intimate and intoxicated and charged with violence; rooted in scripture, wilderness, home spaces. . . . and the mythic worlds we construct to sustain or drive ourselves.

    —The Adroit Journal

  • Beautiful and devastating and real.

    —Arkansas International

  • A sensitive and assured voice. . . . a noteworthy debut, and confirmation of Bates’s talent, heart and place in contemporary poetry.

    —Chicago Review of Books

  • Expansive, sure, and sharp.

    —Southern Review of Books

  • Dazzling…. Bates’s scintillating lyricism makes it a thrilling and unforgettable read.

    —Electric Literature, A Best Poetry Collection of 2023

  • Thrillingly bold. . . . unique in approach, mischievous in its navigation of ideas, and lush yet controlled in its use of language.

    —Library Journal

  • This collection bites, and soothes, and bites again—you won’t be able to quite catch your breath, and you won’t want to.


  • The words leap off the page. Bates will be a lasting voice in the modern poetry landscape.


  • Stunning.


  • Haunting.

    —Alta Journal

  • Absolutely breathtaking.

    —Book Riot

  • What resonates. . . . is that desire to experience a fundamental love, even if it’s illusory.

    —Washington Independent Review of Books

  • Arresting.

    —New England Review

  • One of America’s most unique voices. . . . Gabrielle Bates is one part rock star, one part bard, offering a debut that perfectly balances an unflinching, badass attitude with the practiced precision of an experienced student of poetics.

    —The Poetry Question

  • The haunting and unexpected imagery in this collection makes you want to return to the poems time and time again.

    —Write or Die Magazine

  • Ravenous and roaring. . . . Bates invites us to explore the depths of human relationships.

    —The Dawn Review

  • 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

  • Gabrielle Bates announces herself as a poet of compassion, precision, and heartbreak in all its myriad ways–in Judas Goat, the poet studies and upends stories of suffering in both human and animal worlds. Radiating with the curiosity and wonder of a medieval painter, the poet’s refreshing voice creates a glistening world of religious, mythic, pagan, and modern images which interrogate the cruelties in our most intimate relationships: lovers, parents, landscapes, and gods. In poems that are both sharp and tender, she writes of effigies and little lambs, of chisels in the hands of mentors, of early marriages, of subway stations, of white ash and the ‘cold blood on the cock of god.’ And yet through all the layers of large and little violences emerges a speaker who believes in love, a voice that yearns for the mysterious otherwhere: ‘I am too dying/ of what I don’t know.’ I was stunned by this magnificent debut–here is the voice of a poet I will be reading again and again.

    —Aria Aber, author of Hard Damage

  • Inside the slipperiness of language, Gabrielle Bates writes with a precision that is both lush and masterful. Her writing feels like a laser beam dancing under a waterfall, drenched with exquisite diction, ache, and desire. Violence and tenderness are throttled and exposed through human touch and terror, needling the symbolic intensities through the linguistic landscape of animals. Gorgeous questions loom and ricochet throughout Judas Goat, a book that has utterly wrecked my heart and left me in awe as I gasp at lines that wake me up to the wild world. Bates writes, ‘If I describe something, anything, long enough, / language will lead me back to wanting it.’ This type of yearning creates dazzling entry points inside poems probing and reaching for God, the South, marriage, friendship, mothers, and mentor poets we see as mothers, grieving, and so much longing, longing, longing bursting throughout this remarkable debut.

    —Tiana Clark, author of I Can't Talk About the Trees Without Blood