Relations to the Otherwise: an interview with VT’s newest Poet Laureate, Bianca Stone of Brandon



BRANDON—The Olympian god Apollo has a deep resumé, including the god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the sun and light, and even poetry—not among the highlights, however, are Braggart and Spurned Lover. According to myth, Apollo’s braggadocio was so great that he couldn’t help but tease the god of love, Eros, for his lack of archery skills. Not one to take guff from a gasbag, Eros discharged two arrows, one struck Apollo, filling him with an unquenchable thirst for a Dryad (a nymph or nature spirit), Daphne—the other struck Daphne herself, filling her with a revulsion for romance.

Apollo, then most vile, became such an antediluvian Pepé Le Pew that Daphne begged her father, river god Peneus, to transform her into a laurel tree to escape him. Yet, as it’s good to be a God, not all was lost for Apollo. Ever passionate, he anointed himself with laurels, insisting they become his major symbol, a symbol that became an honor bestowed upon the best Greek poets and heroes. The symbol endures today in many places, not least of which is in the esteemed title of Poet Laureate, even in far-flung places like Vermont. 

Speaking of Vermont, its newest Poet Laureate, Brandon resident Bianca Stone, is well-steeped in tradition and myth. Stone is a visual artist, musician, mother, educator, and third-generation writer. Bianca is the daughter of Middlebury’s Abigail Stone and granddaughter of former Vermont Poet Laureate Ruth Stone, a Goshen resident from 1956 until she died in 2011. Alongside her brother, Walter J. Stone, and her husband, the poet Ben Pease, Bianca co-founded The Ruth Stone House (RSH) to preserve Ruth’s legacy and the broader promotion of poetry. Her work is feral, dizzying, profound, deeply personal, tragic, uproarious, and colossally expansive. In other words, it’s what all poets aspire to. It’s no surprise Vermont chose to fix her with its laurels. 


But what is a Poet Laureate? Simply, a Laureate is honored for achievement, and regarded by their country or region as honored for their work but also asked to raise awareness and greater appreciation for poetry. A four-year appointment, the previous Laureates are a who’s who of poetry whose work endures far beyond the Green Mountains: 

Robert Frost (1961–63), Galway Kinnell (1989–1993), Louise Glück (1994–1998), Ellen Bryant Voigt (1999–2002), Grace Paley (2003–2007), Ruth Stone (2007–2011), Chard de-Niord (2015-2019), Mary Ruefle (2019–2024) . . . and now Bianca Stone. Their list of bona fides is appropriately massive and includes National Book Awards, Pulitzer Prizes galore, even a Congressional Gold Medal and a Nobel Prize. 

Stone will achieve this awareness and appreciation of poetry, in part, via her work—she won the 2023 Vermont Book Award (What is Otherwise Infinite) and has published in places like The New Yorker, The Nation, and the Atlantic—as well as that of RSH. That work includes the Ode & Psyche podcast (hosted by Bianca), “devoted to starting conversations around how poetry illuminates the mechanisms of human consciousness,” the poetry journal ITERANT and many educational workshops, including a free online workshop on Tuesday nights focused on attendees’ work and examinations of other poems. 

As part of her commitment to the art of poetry, and as a sign of love for the local community, Bianca—who is by turns chasmic, brooding, radiant, and hilarious—sat down recently for a sprawling, delicate, and delightfully profound conversation with The Reporter. The following is excerpted from that exchange: 

Reporter: You’re in great company with VT Poet Laureates, how does it feel? 

Bianca: So humbled. Such good company, such beautiful, beautiful company, I’m honored . . . [laughing] I’m probably the only one with tattoos. 

Reporter: You think so? 

Bianca: Maybe Mary [Ruefle] has one? 

Reporter: Ok, the million-dollar question—how would you describe your poetry and process? 

Bianca: [laughing] Poets are notoriously bad at talking about their own poetry . . . I would describe my poetry as, in some ways, a metaphysical inquiry into personal and shared experience . . . what does it mean to be in this world? Are you out there other? 

Reporter: [laughing] Oh, yeah, just a little question that the sum total of humanity has yet to answer . . . 

Bianca: [laughing] Yeah . . . let’s see . . . I would describe my poetry as . . . the work. Period. 

Reporter: What would you recommend as a jumping-off point for people who haven’t read your work before? 

Bianca: [laughing] Start with the newest poems and work your way backward . . . come to a reading . . . open one of my books at random . . . let go of all expectations, and read the poem out loud. And slowly. 

Reporter: What influence has Brandon, or VT, had on your work? 

Bianca: This landscape where I built my mind up, it’s infused in my poetry. Place is very important to poets; certain places have an energy . . . I feel it in my work. 

Reporter: What do you think it is about Vermont that seems to pull so many poets in and pulls so much out of them? 

Bianca: It’s not that far from [cities] but it’s far enough . . . there’s just a rich history . . . the mountains are mountains but they’re not too much . . . they’re manageable mountains, I don’t know [laughing] . . . poets like manageable mountains. 

Reporter: On the subject of place, you recently published the chapbook The Black House with Foundlings Press, you also painted your house black, can you address the rumors that you are a Goth? 

Bianca: [laughs] I have always been one foot in the shadow, I can’t help it . . . historically I’ve been more punk than goth, but the Gothic aesthetic does appeal to me, a lot of it is about death . . . poetry probably was first brought forth by a person dealing with grief, dealing with death . . . I see death as being almost synonymous with the unconscious, so of course, I have a Gothic edge. 

Reporter: I think Goth culture has a through-line to the Romantic poets, are there any Romantics you would have liked to see fronting bands in the late ’70s or ’80s? 

Bianca: [laughs] I don’t know if Keats would have been the greatest frontman, probably Shelly would have been much more adept at that. 

Reporter: Morticia Adams said, “Black is such a happy color, Darling.” Your work grapples with the absurdity of life, it confronts the unknown and painful, often without resolution, but it remains focused on how that struggle can be fulfilling. What role do you think darkness plays in finding or approaching happiness? 

Bianca: It’s absolutely imperative to face the shadow, face the dark side of your consciousness, to bear suffering to come to love and happiness. I’m not saying you have to suffer to be happy . . . that’s just the human condition, to suffer as Simone Weil says, “in proximity to the void.” There’s so much I’ve learned about contradiction and the importance of having both sides of the dyad, you can’t have happiness without feeling the full extent of your loneliness and your sadness. What would happiness look like without sadness? It wouldn’t look like anything. 

Bianca Stone’s interview with The Reporter will continue next week. Please pick up the next issue for Part II. 

More information about Bianca Stone and the Ruth Stone House can be found online at and 

The author of this article works as Editor-at-Large for ITERANT

Share this story:
Back to Top