Fabulous Beast: Poems
(Texas Review Press, 2019)
The poems in Fabulous Beast: Poems explore what it means to be a woman divided between biology, ambition, and desire. By reimagining the traditional forms of fable, fairy tale, and myth, Fabulous Beast contends with decisions faced by women who no longer fit neatly in traditional roles and so must construct new ones.
The first section, “The Sow,” is a fable told through a sequence of free verse poems. These poems examine motherhood through the experience of a shape-shifting animal. The manuscript’s second section is a long poem, “The Woman with the Frog Tongue,” written in Spenserian stanzas and organized according to the morphology of the fairy tale as laid out in Vladimir Propp’s “Thirty-One Functions” told in ten chapter-poems. At the poem’s end, the reader is offered three possible endings with which to resolve the woman’s strange and difficult tale. The third section of the chimerical Fabulous Beast is “Minor Gods,” a sequence of metrical poems exploring autonomy, sexuality, and fidelity through the lens of mythology.
The entire collection ends with one last conversation between the mother and child from the book’s central fairy tale. The child, trying to make sense of her place in the world, listens to her mother speak about her own childhood. In this closing prose poem, she attempts to assure her daughter that our very terrible moments are often short-lived, and what lasts is a renewed sense of presence, of aliveness, in the world. She allows that this anecdote has its limitations, however: “I want you to believe me,” she says in the book’s final lines. “And yet, I want/ for you those summer nights, too, when you lie awake and imagine/ all the ways you don’t.”
"...What matters is this : Sarah Kain Gutowski has a voice in American poetry. It's a unique, finely tuned voice that does not rely on effects, and resonates with music that is unquestionably hers. She writes about being a woman, a mother, a lover, in ways that avoid all the common pitfalls of gender writing, of political angles, and the studied obfuscation of the prevailing style..."
author of The Black Sea
"At the center of Kain Gutowski’s poems we find the beast/woman who gives (gives birth, gives sustenance, gives attention, gives her body) to others and the girl who--after being told she talks too much--becomes a silent woman, “The Woman with The Frog Tongue.” This woman may be silent, but the poet describing her expresses grief, rage, sensuality, and love all at once, with candor and impeccable irony. All the poems in this collection deserve our full attention."
Hope Maxwell Snyder,
author of Esperanza and Hope
and Poet Laureate of Shepherdstown, WV
Fabulous Beast: The Sow
(Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015)
Through a sequence of poems, Fabulous Beast: The Sow is the story of a creature who shifts between the animal world and the human world. It is through her shifting that the sow negotiates a kind of peace: between the part of her that takes instinctively to motherhood and the part of her that feels unnatural in her new role.
"Here, in the language of the final poem, even as the mother assumes human shape and cares for a human child, a son, she remains in “this other female’s” body. The mother is not a woman who was briefly transformed into a sow. The mother is the sow who occasionally becomes human. How long will she be locked in a strange new skin? Forever, Gutowski suggests. Mothering is forever, and the mists that shroud it are inescapable."
Sarah B. Boyle, author of What's pink and shiny/what's dark and hard
“Sarah Kain Gutowski has written a criticism of the flesh and the contracts and vows it makes, and needs, to keep itself, its children and its kind alive, but Fabulous Beast is also a celebration of the spirit, its many transformations and desires. Ultimately, spirit and flesh marry in the sow—who gives life, who loves, who teaches her piglets, her boar and us to commit ourselves ‘to the whirligig earth/ not by the fact of [our] flesh and bone, but by choice.’ No wisdom could be more affirmative or useful.”
Adam Penna, author of Little Songs & Lyrics to Genji
“Fabulous Beast: The Sow, simultaneously harrowing and thrilling, moves us into uniquely imaginative and perceptive poetic territory. Sarah Kain Gutowski’s ability to vividly reveal the malaise and heaviness of the Western female experience forces us to rethink typical gender roles, and the way such roles entrap and enslave our own mothers, our own wives, our children. She exposes our societal treatment of women as insanity-inducing. But she guides us to these stunning revelations with such subtlety and grace, encouraging us to rise from the sty of our making, and bolt, free forever, into that dangerous, beautiful, and waiting world.”
“A gorgeous and sometimes unsettling look at love and motherhood through the eyes of a sow.”