Vermont Arts Council

The People’s Choice Award: Justin Bigos

9: Justin Bigos

Complete the draft of a novel, “We Seditious Herbalists”

Justin Bigos is a poet and fiction writer living in Montpelier. At work on his first novel, Justin’s short fiction has appeared in venues such as McSweeney’s Quarterly, Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, The Seattle Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2015. He has published a book of stories, Double Clothesline (PANK 2022), and a book of poems, Mad River (Gold Wake 2017), which was a finalist for the Poetry Foundation/Emily Dickinson First Book Award. Justin is a founding editor of the literary journal Waxwing, and served as poetry editor and then managing editor from 2013-2023. He lives with his daughter, Thalia.

Project Description

I would hope this novel does for my readers what novels I’ve read have done for me: disoriented me, spun me around as if blindfolded and then stripped of the blindfold: the world before me shaken like a snowglobe, resettling, glinting in the sun, transformed. I hope it makes people laugh, and not too smugly. I hope they recognize themselves in the book, in the various characters: their vanities and failures, their fears and triumphs. I would hope that the book says something important about Vermont, without trying too hard to make some definitive point, and allowing for the state and its people(s) to strut and fall and sing in ways that feel familiar and surprising to the people who live here and the people who don’t. Since moving here in 2018, I have found this place to be far more complex than it had initially appeared, and while this feels like a familiar surprise (as I was surprised by other places I lived in for years: Asheville NC, Flagstaff AZ, and deep in the heart of Brooklyn, to name a few), Vermont—and central Vermont in particular—have offered and continue to offer me ways in which to think about and experience its people, cultures, and natural/built landscapes that I find fascinating. Two of my cherished poets have made their homes here: Mary Ruefle and Ellen Bryant Voigt, and in their work I can see something of Vermont’s dreamy oddness and plain-as-day candor—not mutually exclusive at all, it turns out.

Media Sample 1

We Seditious Herbalists excerpt.


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Desmond Peeples July 27, 2023