In Conversation with Danielle Susi
Bianca Stone is a poet and visual artist. She is the author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows (Tin House/Octopus Books, 2014) and several poetry and poetry comic chapbooks, including I Saw The Devil With His Needlework (Argos Books, 2012), I Want To Open The Mouth God Gave You, Beautiful Mutant (Factory Hollow Press, 2012), and the forthcoming Poetry Comics From the Book of Hours, from Pleadies Books (2016). She is also the contributing artist of Antigonick, a collaboration with Anne Carson.
She is the editor of Monk Books, a small press that publishes limited-edition chapbooks of poetry and art, full-length books, and books connected with her job as chair of the Ruth Stone Foundation, an organization based in Vermont and Brooklyn, NY. We talked about her work in the poetry community, working with her husband, and her new collection.
DS: Tell us a little about Someone Else’s Wedding Vows. Where did it grow from inside of you?
Bianca Stone: It came out of a place of mistrust of happiness, but also a very sincere curiosity for it. I have struggled with reconciling how destructive certain loves can be—when someone is mired in destructive, self-defeating patterns. What I mean is, like, some very harmful things happen in our little human domestic lives, especially with family. But you have to rise above that.
So, when I wrote these poems I was falling in love, and being loved, by my husband. It was strange and foreign to me! But I liked exploring it. It’s a very traditional theme. It never gets old.
DS: I know you and your husband Ben edit Monk Books together, as well. What's that like to work with a romantic partner as a creative and business partner? What came first?
BS: Monk had published Ben's chapbook Wichman Cometh, and we brought Ben on as a layout editor. My previous co-editor and I had issues working together, and the press kind of killed our friendship in the end. Starting big projects can be very trying on a friendship…. But Ben and I were already in a committed relationship and had worked closely on his book together. We found it easy to work together. We revived Monk and just do it the two of us.
It's special to do it together. We understand each other very well, and there are no issues of betrayal or anger because we're very good at communicating. We share such similar interests and visions. And we also do the Ruth Stone Foundation together now, which is melding with the press. In my life I've come to realize that I can't be this close with someone without them joining me on my creative visions.
DS: You’re a former student and now personal assistant to the poet Sharon Olds. What’s that experience been like?
BS: Sharon Olds is one of the most amazing, unique writers of our time. She has a way like no other. Our relationship has become very mentor/mentee over the years, and I am endlessly in awe and grateful for that. I think a lot of people of my generation don't spend enough time appreciating our mentors. And there's so much we can offer one another. Naturally, it's a very important dynamic. We need to communicate across schools of thought. Working with her is more than a job. We think together.
DS: Are you at work on a second collection? If so, how is that taking shape?
BS: I try and focus less on what I think will be the end result. I let myself create and edit as naturally as I can. I like to not know how things are going to come out in the end, although along the way you start to see it developing like an embryo. This morning I was working on these poems that will probably be my next book. I've been working on them for about 4 years now. It keeps evolving and changing. It's a book of poems that plays with narrative and memoir through the lyric form. The poems sometimes become prose poems. It's about ghosts, legacy, and habits.
I'm also working on a collection of poetry comics for Pleiades Press. They’re doing my book in 2016!
DS: I love the poetry comics! I was first exposed to them as the illustrations in Antigonick. Can you talk a little more about the collection of poetry comics? What will it look like physically? Do you consider it to be a collection of unrelated images, or do they construct a sort of narrative?
BS: I'm in the thick of making it. It's coming together right now. It's going to be laid out like a vintage comic book. But it's certainly, in no way a collection of unrelated images. In my work, even if there's a lot of ambiguity and a kind of overblown, mutated idea of negative capability, there's a thread. Images speak to one another. In this collection, it's unique because of its size. It is three distinct, longer poetry comics. Two of my Factory Hollow Press comics, and one that was published online. But I'm reworking a lot of the parts, making the book have an arch and semblance of unity. They all construct narrative exactly like poetry does: askew.
DS: What poets and writers and artists are you loving now?
BS: Lately I’ve come back to Anne Carson, and reread Glass, Irony and God, and The Beauty of the Husband, for a class I was teaching. And coming back to James Tate, since his death, and rekindling my awe. My friends Eric Amling's From The Author's Private Collection, and Monica McClure’s Tender Data, came out with their debut poetry collections from Birds LLC, and those two books are full of some of the best poetry being written today. I’ve been slowly reading and savoring Dorothy Iannone's You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends, from Siglio, a collection of images and text, very erotic and exquisitely done.
DS: You’ve been working to develop the Ruth Stone Foundation in memory of your late grandmother. What is your end-goal for the foundation? What impact would you like it to have in the larger literary community?
BS: Ruth left her physical and literary estate in trust to "further poetry and the arts" and I mean to do just that. I want to make not just a writing retreat, but a mission control center in the north east kingdom where the most exciting, innovative people in poetry and the arts come together and slowly evolve and guide the future course of our human creativity. From this base so much will happen—through education, larger social issues being addressed in the writing community and making sure there are resources for people, listening to what the needs are in the writing community and confronting them head-on.
My own vision for creativity, that blooms out from upbringing with my grandmother, has everything to do with this. It's a legacy of thinking. And encouragement in the arts; bringing the different genres together—even things like science and sports—I want to show people how creativity is relevant in all areas of life. And communication between worlds is very important. We need to be digging ditches with old Vermonters and sitting around the campfire with astrophysicists. We need to look at the natural work around us and see the bigger picture. The RSF won't settle for any less. And we will confront everything as poets.