What Is Otherwise Infinite
Finalist for the New England Book Award in Poetry and the Vermont Book Award
As heard on NPR Morning Edition
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2022
A searching, startling new collection of poems from the author of The Möbius Strip Club of Grief and Someone Else’s Wedding Vows
Written in four sections with incisive and vivid lyrical language, Bianca Stone’s What Is Otherwise Infinite considers how we find our place in the world through themes of philosophy, religion, environment, myth, and psychology. “I deal only in the hardest pain-revivers, symbols and tongues,” writes Stone. “I want to tell you only / in the intimacy of our discomfort.”
Populated by Archangels, limping in paradise; by allergies of the soul; the intimacy and danger of motherhood; psychic wounds; and dirty, dirty chocolate layer cake, What Is Otherwise Infinite deftly examines our inherent and inherited ideas of how to live, and the experience of the Self—which on one hand is so intensely personal, and on the other, universal.
Stone’s poems reframe the search for meaning by addressing the self-care and self-perfection complex. Because even though it’s natural to want to “fix” our lives—sometimes obsessing over our lives can work against us.
—NPR Morning Edition
Poems that bounce off ordinary moments to attain something extraordinary.
—The Washington Post
Roams in the realm of religion and philosophy.
—The New York Times
Stone casts our everyday experiences in mythic language, lifting even the mundane anxieties of a sleepless night to new philosophical heights.
—New York Public Library
In poems that reference “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Virginia Woolf with the same ease as noise music and Star Trek, Bianca Stone’s latest collection looks at the dark things that live in us all—shame, depression, doubt, addiction—and reminds us that even Christ spent “forty days in the desert / with what he thought was the Devil / but was really just himself.” This is the moral questioning of Dante and Milton updated with a contemporary gallows humor and the 21st century’s grappling with the existential fear of climate change and capitalism. “That’s purgatory, baby.”
An unflinching portrait of motherhood. . . . A mixture of honesty and strangeness that is distinctive.
Deftly weaves between the physical and the metaphysical, the daily domestic trials of life and the larger trials of being human in this world, this universe.
What is Otherwise Infinite is a collection that seeks to erase horizons and any other lines left between us and what is sublime.
A courageous, erudite inquiry into an intellectual woman’s fracturing identities.
Stone’s work brilliantly combines nature, existence, and our sense of place in the world.
If Bianca Stone and a hundred other humans witness the same event, it is Stone’s version you want to read. She’s that particular, that powerful.
As refreshingly ambitious in its intent as it is electric in its meanings.
—On the Seawall
Combines sharp-witted philosophizing with breathtaking honest reflections of the self.
—The Poetry Question
Incisive, tender and playful. . . . This honest, piercing collection addresses the wayward heart of modern society, pointing at the world—and even at the self—and asking for a revaluation.
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Investigates the ways we find our place in the world.
Whether dealing with alcoholism, motherhood, climate change or literature, Stone faces each difficult truth. She does not shrink from the hard facts, preferring to look at them square and then allow her language to refract them back to the reader in sharp, crystalline focus.
This is like moral baroque and also an invitation to make things. I feel enclosed by something guiding here in these poems which feels deeply experienced and it may sound corny but I think Bianca Stone is raising the possibility that writing poems (or writing these poems) is an opportunity to give. Does that constitute a philosophy or a craft. She’s making that.
Bianca Stone’s What Is Otherwise Infinite is a majestic exploration in what it means to be alive. Interspersed between tender and grotesque descriptions of everyday and domestic life, the reader finds something holy here. There are the immortal voices of those thinkers and poets from the past who inform the landscape of the book, both mentally and spiritually. There are the haunting traces of the eternal present and of the possible future that seethe their resentment, regret, and even joy everywhere. There is also a human heart within the book beating so relentlessly that you can tell the time by it. But more than any of this, there is language here—real poetry—that transforms your way of seeing the world with its terrifyingly beautiful presence. This is a legendary book. It will change you. You must read it.
—Dorothea Lasky, author of Animal
Bianca Stone is a seeker. Wry, funny, and often thwarted, mired in daily life, metaphysically tormented, afflicted by what she calls “allergies of the soul,” she searches for something deep and meaningful, something ongoing, mysterious, and ineffable. She has the impulse to kneel and be “thunderstruck with language,” to find “the new Eucharist,” to call out to a God who is also searching for God. What Is Otherwise Infinite is a rare thing in contemporary American poetry—a spiritual testament.
—Edward Hirsch, author of Stranger by Night
Poetry and comedy are really the same thing; they both depend on a kind of absolute, if also artfully deployed, vulnerability. There is no better proof of this than What Is Otherwise Infinite by Bianca Stone. These poems are deadly earnest, but there are some serious truths that can only be revealed in a joking tone: ‘There are wildfires/ switching course to worry about./ I take my daughter to the lake and watch her feel the tiny waves./ A seagull lifts a sandwich right from my hands.’ On almost every page, these poems take that kind of journey—from fear through tenderness to transcendence in only a few lines. In short lyrics and long poems, Stone unflinchingly faces her depths, finding surprising light in a dark and frightening time. I feel befriended by this generous book, which understands that, in some ways, happiness and sadness are also the same: ‘I have nothing to give but tears, of which one/ is too much and a whole sea/ not enough.
—Craig Morgan Teicher, author of Welcome to Sonnetville, New Jersey
She writes from a world that includes faith, medieval texts & trips to Walmart and a sense of ongoing intellectual & spiritual pilgrimage alongside flailing, falling & being nearly overwhelmed.
Stone is able to twist and turn lines into revealing the sacredness of mundanity in this collection of enlightenment.