North American Review’s Literary Roundtable Podcast

Thanks to the North American Review’s Poetry Editor Rachel Morgan who interviewed me for a podcast during the Iowa book launch. Listen here.



“A poet in progress invites her muse along for the ride”



“When an emerging poet looks for inspiration at a museum, she might lapse easily into cliché. This candid self-portrait rarely does.

Bates approaches her debut poetry collection more as observer than participant, then eases slowly into the idea of herself as an artist. Voiced as an “I,” she haunts a gallery of ancient statues in search of a muse—and at first it’s hard to tell whether the hunter or the hunted is more reluctant. Bates’ goal is not distinctive, but her journey is. She interweaves dry art history with rich personal history, sweeping from Mount Helicon and Latin etymology to her LA neighborhood, a lonely bus ride, a family day at the beach. The result is a travel memoir in verse, linked prose poems narrating a curious child’s evolution into a writer (“Would you choose then or now to be alive?”). To get there, she builds bridges from creation to destruction, birth to benediction. Some are more effective than others; all are worth crossing. A former Fulbright Fellow (and current Kirkus contributor), Bates has a refreshingly unsentimental take on antiquity: “A consecration, an assassination, a flood. Repeat.” But her writing is best when she dips into memory, emerging with clearer eyes and a sense of connection to her own talent. “Once there was a time when I was the most awake,” she recalls. “I noted everything that happened and thought maybe I was an artist.” This collection is full of awake moments, and it’s a pleasure to see Bates find her way to them.

A poet in progress invites her muse along for the ride.”

Editors’ Picks

Over at the GW Hatchett, What Is Not Missing Is Light has popped up as an Editors’ Pick!

“Lit | Tatiana Cirisano, Contributing Culture Editor

This week’s pick: “What Is Not Missing Is Light” by Bridgette Bates

I’ve read the work of Bates before, but the poetry in her recently published debut collection, “What Is Not Missing Is Light,” really solidifies her position as a masterful poet. In the collection, she muses on museum statues of women.”

Thanks to the Editors!

PEN Poetry Series

A few poems excerpted from What Is Not Missing Is Light have been featured in the PEN Poetry Series. Guest editor Heather Christle writes a lovely introduction to the poems: “On the subject of statues in museums, poets are divided. In one gallery, Frank O’Hara proclaims to his beloved that ‘it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still / as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary,’ while in an adjacent room Rainer Maria Rilke maintains his vehement belief in the power of Apollo’s archaic torso. In Bridgette Bates’ new collection, What Is Not Missing Is Light, statues provide occasions for the poet to explore the body, the museum, the war inside and out. Marble arms reach back into myths both ancient and more immediately personal, or—if the arms themselves are missing—the poet’s gaze grows haptic in their place. I won’t call Bates a docent. She is a fellow visitor to the museum, one who’s generously decided to share with us her graceful, intelligent notes.” 

Read the poems here.