USEREVIEW 112 (Capsule): Judas Goat
Judas Goat (Tin House, 2023)
ISBN 978-1-95353-464-4 | 104 pp | $16.95 USD | BUY Here
Gabrielle Bates’ debut collection of poems, Judas Goat, surprises and shocks with its candor and specificity about being a young woman in the beckoning Deep South. Violence permeates this collection, as does religion — images of Judas, his organs spilling out of his body, make appearances, as do the Virgin Mary and other eclectic figures. They are woven through with more personal figures: lovers, husbands, mothers, fathers. Bates manages to weave the confessional with the holy, making everyday occurrences like dinner with one’s father into moments wrought out of scripture. Goats, the eponymous animal, are like a familiar to Bates — they suckle and give life, but also represent something more sinister, their slit pupils designating them as a creature of evildoing as well as motherhood.
At times, the collection feels scattered — Bates has taken on an immense, emotional project, and the threads don’t always cohere, but her powerful voice makes up for the occasional misstep. This debut is a strong one, and Bates is a dynamo who should be watched for what she does next.
The book is written with fervor and precision, the poems ask difficult questions and answer them in the same breath, as in ‘Eastern Washington Diptych’ (p. 37): “Without violence, how do I understand my life as meaningful? / As if the only tool I owned for finding truth were a knife.”