Five Questions with Bianca Stone
Bianca Stone is a poet and visual artist. She's the author of the poetry collection Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, and contributing artist/collaborator on a special illustrated edition of Anne Carson's Antigonick from New Directions. She co-founded and edits Monk Books, and chairs The Ruth Stone Foundation, an organization based in Vermont and Brooklyn, NY. Her newest book, Poetry Comics From the Book of Hours is out now from Pleiades press.
Bianca is also a previous contributor to Washington Square Review. I’ve been completely entranced by her work since reading her debut poetry collection, which is full of funny and striking lines like Bring me to the oak out front and tell me you love me / I say to the family dog.
I spoke to Bianca over email about astrology, visual art, extravagance and more. You can read her work here, here, and here, and see her read at KGB Bar for the NYU Emerging Writers reading series on May 6th!
— Laura Creste
1. Do you believe in astrology at all, and if so, is your sign accurate?
In a way, I suppose I do. But what a load of crap to think that the universe cares if money’s coming your way or not. The true relevance behind astrology is no doubt hidden. Still, it’s the human that strives to understand and know herself that is the most interesting to me... and basically that’s what we’re doing with astrology. Trying to understand ourselves. My Scorpio sign has always felt very apt. This week I was reading old spells in an encyclopedia of magic—like medieval shit: throwing a toad in a bucket of water under a full moon and mixing a wolf’s paw with lily-pollen... I mean, that’s pure poetry. We affect the world around us in ways we’ll never know, and everything has its mysticism.
2. What is your greatest extravagance?
My evenings with all my books I’ve bought, paper I’ve killed trees for, cat who eats endlessly, cigarettes and weed I smoke, Netflix, and large cold glass of water. It’s much better than drinking alcohol. I want my extravagance to lead to intellect and imagination. Can extravagance do that or does it inherently resist? It gives me a cunning pleasure to be indulgent. Parts of it are productive. But perhaps one should be taking cold showers, budgeting finances, and writing novels...
3. Describe your favorite meal. Who made it and where are you?
I should be thinking back. Mom was inconsistent with cooking. When she did cook it was really good. Her specialty is basmati rice. When she made a perfect batch of rice, (cooked, what I think is the long, Iranian way—and to be perfect it’s not too sticky, and not too hard); with sole, baked in butter and lemon—that meal, I was in heaven. I still remember the taste. And I remember eating it sitting on the floor. I always wanted her to remake it. It was one of the first times I was okay with food on the plate touching and mixing.
Nowadays I make my own favorite meals. Currently my favorite is Japanese sweet potato with pistachio pesto and chicken. I learned this recipe from Mary the Paleo Chef. It’s such a surprising blend of flavors. My palate is changing. I put cumin in everything. I make my own curry.
4. When do you turn to visual art and when do you turn to poetry?
There is something more blank about drawing for me. No words, rather it comes when I’m struck with the texture of something. The placement of shapes. When I’m blank and I need to stay blank. Drawing and painting help me focus on the moment. I turn to poetry when I have a strange bunch of words in my head. Or even a single word, that has a different weight than most thoughts. I reach back and forward in my head for poems.
Both mediums have their own needs and draw or repel me at certain times.
5. Why does the line break?
I think because meaning is broken. And poetry touches the space where something is not—like, not there. Where something is taken away, even if it’s half a breath between words. Sure-meaning in language is deceiving to us, because it glides over certain mysteries of the universe. I KNOW it sounds very grand, but even in the simplest of statements there is a furtive meaning that is half exposed when the line is broken. Poetry takes language and shows the cracks in it, and through the cracks the reader can peek at something else, more elusive and strange and personal. The break is where it all happens. But the language has also to be of a certain skill in order for this to work. It can’t be just anything. It is the melding of the two, the content of line, and the break of the line.