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

(Cont’d from last week’s issue)


Reporter: Comedian Minnie Pearl said without black, color has no depth, we have to add darkness in if we want to create something full and real. Conversely, poets don’t get enough credit for being funny. Your work is dark but also funny— sometimes in biting, sardonic ways, sometimes in more straightforward ways, often both—what do you think comedy can do for poetry and vice versa?


Bianca: There is a connection between comedians and poets, [laughing] not in that grim way that poets try to be comedians in between their poems at readings…I think of the word tragicomic…we’re talking about the importance of holding contradictions. If you’re going to be talking about the most serious issues without acknowledging the absurdity of existence…then you’re not going to get at the full spectrum of experience.

Not to mention that comedy helps people to listen… the wise fool is one of those contradictions that align with poets.

Reporter: There’s something in the function of a joke’s punchline and the turn in a poem that can elicit an autonomic response—I tend to feel most grounded and alive in that astonishment, does this happen to you? Is there any functional difference between them?

Bianca: I think there is a difference, but I think they share a similar tone…what’s important for each one is that you don’t know what’s coming next… it depends on the surprise of it, but also the appropriateness—it has to land in a way where you say, oh, you’re right, it tapped into something that was already there that you didn’t know was there, so it’s both surprising and familiar.

Reporter: Along those lines—of opposing forces being a part of a bigger whole, of the same-but-different—you and your brother are twins. Your poem, “Twins,” is notable for fusing existential contradictions with humor. It doesn’t start funny, quite the opposite, yet you land it with a kind of joke—it’s not flippant or forced. Can you explain the process of arriving at this place? How do you know what is true enough to be in the poem?

Bianca: I don’t always know how a poem is going to end up, there is a part of you that unconsciously arrives at it. I think you’re asking how did I arrive at [being] a poignant human?

Reporter: [laughs] Well, I didn’t mean to make it that unanswerable, I mean how do you know which poignant parts to keep in?

Bianca: I don’t always know; I’ve got to experiment with it… we might write poems in order to arrive at those discoveries… this is why I think [writing poems] is similar to psychoanalysis… you have a conversation in front of a psychoanalyst, seeing what falls out…it’s very private too.

Reporter: It’s having a kind of audience?

Bianca: Yeah, and yet you have that intimacy and the privacy of the contained space…that allows for your brain to change… and openness can happen, on both ends…towards the unconscious, and if you have that [openness] the poem is writing itself with you. To arrive at a turn is to have an epiphany…a breakthrough. There’s always an edge of humor in a psychoanalytic breakthrough…you surprise yourself…a part of that is unspoken, unknowable, and unfinished… there is an ambiguity to [what’s] happening—that’s how we keep going… Poetry is not a code to be deciphered, and yet, it is because everything is encoded with information, the difference is that there isn’t one answer—it’s a riddle with many answers.

Reporter: Family is a theme in your poems, is it a centering thing in a poet’s life? Is it even escapable? What does that say about the objective/subjective and the personal/universal?

Bianca: There is no objective poetry. In many ways, even if you’re not directly writing about your family, your earliest objective experiences are going to inform your poetry because [they] inform our relationship to the world going forward… to some degree your subjective [experience] creates an atmosphere of shared experience, which is a phenomenon in itself.

Reporter: It’s like a third space between an artist’s intentions and the audience’s response.

Bianca: How is it that we do that? We’re trapped in our own infinitely lonely experience. There is this feeling of, I will never know the other… I will never truly be connected with another. We have these intimate relationships, marriage, children… that doesn’t mean you’re connected and really knowing the other person. In Martin Buber’s “I and Thou,” he talks about…when I truly say “you” with all of my being…you can glimpse eternity with the other being, that’s all we can do. For this fleeting proverbial second, we can know the other.

Reporter: I wonder what Jung would say about the collective unconscious and the way art connects people.

Bianca: That’s what happens when we read myth, and myth is poetry. That’s why Jung became so interested in myth…these universal archetypal expressions of experience that exist in these myths that we can experience never having read them… we have this individual experience and yet underneath [it] is an ancient, eternal, shared experience.

This is why reading poetry and myth is so important…I don’t want to be confined to my idea of my experience with my family. All my greatest poems about them have transcended my experience.

Reporter: I read that you’re working on a film project along similar lines, which, to some degree, is a blurring of lines, even an abandonment of them—what do you think about genre as a concept?

Bianca: When we label ourselves, we limit ourselves—this is the problem with naming. But, it’s also how we categorize and make sense of what we’re doing. It’s not good or bad, necessarily, but we need to understand that we are the label makers. Poetry contains truth and fiction together… I’m drawn to it for that reason… it’s such a great genre to talk about in terms of living because it acknowledges the contradictory nature of truth and fiction… it speaks to knowledge itself… it is dynamic and an instigator of understanding thought and language—it is an enactment of philosophy.

Reporter: Ok, last question. Animals appear throughout your work. Poets are notorious for writing about animals—Eliot had cats; Bukowski had cats and horses, Dickinson and Barrett Browning had dogs…

Bianca: And birds!

Reporter: …Whitman had every animal he ever saw—and everyone seems to have birds—you’ve long cared for cats and chickens, but you also just got a puppy. So, recency bias being what it is, will you become a dog poet now? Have you entered your dog period?

Bianca: Hmm… have I put him in a poem yet? I think I did and it wasn’t working [laughing], but he’s definitely going to make it in… What I love about having animals is they don’t use language in the same way—we get to have a relationship that is otherwise. It teaches me a lot.

*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

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