BIANCA STONE grew up in Vermont, and graduated with an MFA from NYU's Creative Writing Program. She is the author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows (Tin House/Octopus Books, 2014), several poetry and poetry comic chapbooks, and is also the illustrator of Antigonick, (a collaboration with Anne Carson). Her poems have appeared in magazines such as American Poetry Review, Tin House, and Crazyhorse. She lives in Brooklyn.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
When your first book finally happens and is in your hands, it kind of makes you want to lay down and die for a few months. It’s amazing and exhausting. I went through my life damned impatient for this book. I thought it would have happened 10 years ago. But turns out I’m patient (and thank god for that). I could have had a first book a while ago, but I wouldn’t have been as happy as I am now. That’s why chapbooks are good. Play the long-game in poetry. It’s better.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Grandma read her poetry around me all the time. And mom read her fiction. They lived life with writing and art at the top, always at the top. It came before clothes and food. Before school. I came to poetry at the same time I came to listening.
I’ve always held poetry closest.
Not many people know this, but as a teenager, I was fairly sure I was going to be a singer/songwriter for my career, and was actively engaged in that dream coming true.
If I had gone to a college that catered to that more, I feel sure it would have happened. Ha.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Sometimes the poem comes SMACK down, and there it is. All done. Other poems come, and they’re stinkers and I’ll spend a long time editing them into whole new poems.
This morning I woke up and started writing a long, long poem about American Superstitions. Long, long poems come fast and hard. But can take a long time to edit to be ready for publication.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Poets sometimes need to remember that a poem is a poem. Not just a part of a project. That’s why we’re poets and not fiction writers, right?
I want my poems to be their own, not depend on other poems; not have to be a for book, with a perfect title, and a perfect conceit.
But then, things are changing in the poetry world. Long pieces are getting to be ingenious. Books are being thought about differently. MY POEMS ARE TURNIGN INTO PROSE AND ESSAY. I am moving away from the single poem right now. But then, also, I never will completely move away from the short single poem. When you’re writing, don’t think too hard about it, or it becomes too heavy. Let yourself go, and see what happens.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love them. They are good for poets to do, and to see. Even bad readings really rev you up.
I believe reading your poems is important because it is the one time we can read them how we hear them in our own head. Imagine, if we could hear Keats read one of his poems, how HE heard it in his head!
The problem that a lot of people kill their poems. They act like they just want to get off stage. They don’t communicate at all with the audience—and I don’t mean verbally. Your physical presence on stage, the way you project, your timing, your pauses, your facial expressions—all of these things are important. It changes every time you read, slightly. It depends on your mood, and the mood of the room. But it can make or break how people like your work. If they just wanted the words to be conveyed, they would go read a poem. You have to remember you’re up on stage, and that requires a sympathy with the audience. Give your poems all you got. Be your poem.
In NYC we all tend to read a lot. We listen to one another, we get to know one another’s poems and styles. I hear new people all the time. It’s part of our life here.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Maybe always along the lines of: Will it be like this forever? Why am I like this?
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
For me lately it’s becoming about authenticity; to be authentic to ourselves as artists; to spread that message to students, allowing them to truly engage with their creativity.
Poetry spreads into every other genre. It’s good to remind ourselves and the people around us, how subtle but prevalent poetry is in American culture. It’s important. It deserves respect. And when it gets respect, acknowledge it.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential. (for a manuscript) There are things about your work you will never see objectively. You need someone else, who you trust, to make the suggestions you can’t make. You don’t always agree with them, but at least you have someone who’s invested in your voice.
Getting older is learning to be your own editor, too.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to illustration/comics)? What do you see as the appeal?
I’ve always moved between them easily, because that’s how things worked in my household growing up. Whatever you felt like doing at the time. But at the same time, we each had things we were better at.
Here’s the reason why it’s good to switch things up: it makes you a better poet to read lots of things that aren’t poetry, and to even give them a shot. Writing an essay or a story opens you up creatively. Drawing can produce things you could never do in a poem. And then it all comes back and informs your poems. Like when you’re driving, Keep your eyes moving.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I work from home mostly, so it’s a battle of priorities. I should be starting my work-work, but I get all wrapped up in a poem. Or vice versa. I try to writing in the morning, before I get on the damn internet.
I like to write on Sundays.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Other people’s poetry. Or I write something else, like prose. Usually I’m stalled because the music is stalled. Sometimes I’ll listen to recordings of poets reading. That helps.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Wood smoke. Mold. Antiques.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Endlessly from science, which is a trait I picked up from grandma.
I keep science books near my desk—I love Sci-fi tv shows (Star Trek, Dr. Who)
I love neuroscience and read about the brain all the time
I think about the mountains in VT whenever I’m writing.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
The most important that I go back to again and again is my grandma, Ruth Stone. And my mom, Abigail Stone, she inspires me all the time with her writing and what she makes with her hands. I’ve been reading a lot of Philip Guston’s collected lectures and writings. Other writers that are important to me:
Philip K. Dick
Matthew and Michael Dickman
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Impossible: Play Chopin on the piano
Possible: make a full-length, full-color, prose-poetry-comic book. And write a novel.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I fantasize about a lot of things. Here are the top ones:
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It was the only thing I was good at in school. Literally.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Just read The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick, and it was AMAZING.
Also, just watched a season of this show called Getting On. BRILLANT.
20 - What are you currently working on?
This poem about a dictionary of superstitions.
A collection of elegies for my grandmother.
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