The Fabulous Beasts: Poems by Joyce Carol Oates
Lsu Press (paperback), 1975
86 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)


This collection of fifty-two poems from the author of Angel Fire and Anonymous Sins explores the annihilation of the time-bound ego, a liberating, sometimes terrifying experience for all who live within the “fabulous beast” of history and nature. The poems explore the shifting, elusive point at which the inwardness of individual experience touches upon the larger consciousness of a species or an era, forming a connection with a “self” that goes beyond subjectivity. The poems are grouped into four parts: “Broken Connections,” “Forbidden Testimonies,” “The Child-Martyr” and “A Posthumous Sketch,” are prose poems which, though technically different from the others, are concerned with the same theme-the relationship between the individual and a larger, all-inclusive whole. Neither fatalistic nor rebellious, the poems convey the idea that as long as we live in time we must struggle, and that is this struggle that determines our humanity.

Broken Connections

Are you safe there? Can you hear me?
Across the sow-maddened miles
We shout questions and answers.
The air is choppy as a river.
He is saying, Can you hear –
As the telephone line crackles, like laughter,
Then goes dead.
It is dead.

The Fabulous Beasts contains some of JCO’s best poems and the best I’ve ever read. This is now one of my favourite collections of poems and I could read it again and again. These are the kind of contemporary poems I love, just the right amount of imagery and detail so I know exactly what JCO is trying to say every time. Poem after poem took me by surprise and delighted me. Some of the best poems in the collection are the ones that convey fragments of insight and stories. Among the best are Broken Connections, Forbidden Testimony, A Heroine Without a Story, In Case of Accidental Death and Promiscuity. These poems are startling, remarkable and not easily forgotten.

Poems included:

  • Broken Connections
  • After Terror…
  • The Impasse
  • Wonders of the Invisible World
  • A Posthumous Sketch
  • Forbidden Testimony
  • An Age of Miracles
  • “After Twelve Years of Travelling Constantly….”
  • Breaking and Entering
  • The Fear of Going Blind
  • Two Insomniacs
  • An American Tradition
  • Coast Guard Rescue Manoeuvres
  • Lovers
  • A Heroine Without a Story
  • Lies Lovingly Told
  • To a Victim
  • A Friend Moving Out of Our Lives
  • The Survivor
  • In the Street
  • Spaces
  • Lorelei
  • “But I Love…”
  • Blizzard
  • Sinners in the Hand of a Righteous God
  • Fight
  • Seizure
  • The Child-Martyr
  • Occult
  • In Case of Accidental Death
  • Promiscuity
  • What Has Not Been Lost in the Deserts of North America?
  • Midday
  • Closure
  • Being Faithful
  • Fireflies
  • Mourning and Melancholy: In Memory of Sylvia Plath
  • Approaching the Speed of Light
  • After the Storm
  • While We Slept…
  • The Forgiveness of Sins
  • London Winter
  • 20:26 Knots
  • In Air
  • Music
  • A Vision
  • Fabulous Beasts
  • Wooded Forms
  • In Realms of Day
  • Dreaming America
  • “All Things Are Full Of Gods”
  • Wating



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