Artist Highlight: Gabrielle Bates


Dear Birmingham

I’ve been visiting again
the cemetery
with a sunken southern corner.

Fish smaller than first teeth, birthed from the soil,
maneuver in the glaze
where rain pools, covering the lowest stones.

            Behind him, in a cracked white tub,
my knees to his sides,
left ear pressed to
the stack of bones in his neck,

I was once so terrified of my own contentment
I bit my shoulder
and drew blood there
                        to the surface—past it—

What I have wanted most
is many lives. One for each longing,
round and separate.

Sometimes I bring figs here, asphyxiating
in plastic, for their distant echo
of your humid, ghost-flesh air
shouldering the leaves—that almost-a-human
            I was born in autumn
as it fled underground
to be fed to a body
of water that only swallows.

“This poem is haunted, as I am, by my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and other unbreakable tethers. The bivalve form of the poem, with that single line as a hinge in the middle, has been recurring in my work lately. There’s something drawing me to that visual interruption near the halfway point. Love—for another person, a place, the self—requires that we wrestle with limitations. I often go to poetry for that sort of wrestling.”
Gabrielle Bates

Gabrielle Bates is a writer and visual artist originally from Birmingham, Alabama. She is currently living in Seattle and works for Open Books: A Poem Emporium and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon.

I came across Gabrielle Bates through Instagram (hello virtual world! You're good to us, after all. ^_*)  and it's one of those moments I pinch myself because this space is becoming more and more my dreams of many moons realized -- a family of creatives.

When asked what's inspiring her lately, she candidly responded: 

"my grandmother’s coffee cup, French movies, animals, snake earrings, friends, Padraig O Tuama’s podcast Poetry Unbound, Rodin sculptures, the histories of words, mortality, daydreaming…"

Her debut collection of poems, JUDAS GOAT, is forthcoming from Tin House in 2023. 

Can't wait. xx

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