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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Closing out National Poetry Month with Horror Poetry

Today I am closing out National Poetry month with a 2-fer set of posts on both blogs featuring my favorite poetry collection of the year, so far. A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng.

Here on the general blog, I am going to feature my review of the book and a wonderful interview between Sng and Horror poetry legend, Linda Addison, while on the horror blog, you can enter a giveaway for this book [and many more]. You can click here to scoot over to the horror blog at anytime.

Three words that describe this book: immersive, creepy, accessible  
What I love about Sng's horror poetry is how easily you slip into the world. she is creating. Readers new to poetry, might be worried about the format, but rest assured, this is not the poetry from hundreds of years ago that you were forced to read in school. 
The poems flow so easily. The unravel like stories, super creepy and unsettling stories, but ones that complete envelop the reader. You read along easily, feeling the world, the plot, and the unease she is. creating with each word with all 5 of your senses. 
Honestly, this is a collection that will remind many readers that they do like poetry. This is collection that will remove the barriers many readers feel poetry puts up in their way. That is because this is a poetry collection that is about using the format to tell an amazing and united horror story of the terror, dread, and unease within our collective human folk lore, fairy tales, and mythology. It is a collection that unites us as a species and pays homage to our historical desire to tell horror stories. 
As a result, it is a collection that is not only a fun read for horror fans, it is a great advertisement for the genre itself-- why so many of us want to feel the fear.
A COLLECTION OF DREAMSCAPES is the follow up to the 2017 Bram Stoker Award winning poetry collection, A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES. I highly recommend both. 
I would also like to make a general statement about the publisher of this collection, Raw Dog Screaming Press. Libraries, this is a publisher you need to know about. They are publishing the very best horror poetry in the country and the rest of their catalog is stellar also. I stand behind the publishers as people and their product. I have yet to find a bad book that they have published. Bonus for libraries, they are easily available through your regular ordering platforms and the physical books hold up to multiple checkouts. Click here for my glowing Booklist review of a story collection they published last year.
For fans of fairy tale and folklore inspired dark fantasy or horror like Oyeyemi or Novik. Other horror poets who are similar, Stephanie Wytovich and Linda Addison. If you like the short stories of Carmen Maria Machado, you also need to try Sng. 
And now, thank you to Raw Dog Screaming Press, I would like to share this interview between Sng and Addison. This interview between two immensely talented and award winning poets serves as a great introduction to horror poetry and the process of creating it.


LDA: As you know, I’m a great lover of your work and was so excited when your book, A Collection of Nightmares, won a HWA Bram Stoker Award three years ago. How did that feel?

CS: I was elated, over the moon when I heard the news from my publisher Jennifer that Nightmares won the Stoker. It felt like a dream. Still does. And your video message made my day! 

LDA: Your new book, A Collection of Dreamscapes,is like a story cycle in poetic form from beginning to end, with each poem feeling like an extension of the previous and feeding the next. Can you talk about how this structure happened?

CS: For me, I believe strongly that my book needs to tell a story, from the beginning to the end. Even if each poem is different, they have to flow from poem together. It gives a collection weight and cohesion, each poem a microcosm of a life, a tale, a fragment of a larger whole. That makes me feel my collection is complete, which is why I often shuffle my poems around right till the deadline to fill the gaps in the story, to ensure the story is whole, that it is properly told.

LDA: This collection has poetry that fits in many genre areas: fantasy, science-fiction, horror, what was your process in selecting work for your new book, and putting them in the order/sections they are in?

CS: I have various themed folders on my computer and when a poem is published, I place it inside. When a folder is filled, it becomes a section of a collection or a whole collection. When I look at a collection as a whole, sometimes a poem fits better in another section, as it has before while compiling in this collection. So they move around till they fit perfectly, just like a jigsaw.

LDA: I’ve always enjoyed how your poetry uses fairy tales and myths in a very new grown up way; how did that come about for you?

CS: I have always loved myth. There is a deep history there, beyond culture, beyond religion that is all of us. Every myth has versions in every continent. It’s our shared humanity in stories and it is all of us. As I grow older, I find myself rather tired of the old tropes where the girl is helpless and has to be saved, particularly now that I have a daughter. I want her to grow up being the knight, not the maiden in distress, the queen with power, not the one obsessed with a mirror. I can’t change the old tales, but I can write new ones. At that time, I picked up Anne Sexton’s Transformations. The concept intrigued me, of completely subverting traditional fairy tales, which by themselves are already so multi-layered in their many iterations. 

So, with all that in mind, I decided to make Little Red Riding Hood the hero instead of a random huntsman. That inspired my first story ever sold, Red, which was in Space and Time some years back, and a series of Red poems and haiku. As a character, she intrigues me. There’s so much potential a girl has when you set her free in the forest with a crossbow in her hands.

LDA: Can you talk about the connection of the titles of your two collections, A Collection of Nightmares, which received a Bram Stoker in 2018 and, A Collection of Dreamscapes, your latest book? Is there a third coming in the future, A Collection of…?

CS: I feel that it gives the collection a tome-like authoritative feel. There was no plan for a second book when the first, Nightmares, was completed. It wasn’t meant to be a series. But it felt like a natural progression to have the next book with the same frame of “A Collection of” Of course, it has given me a lot of trouble with marketing, eg “Here is my collection, A Collection of...” It doesn’t quite work so I always have to rephrase the sentence. Still, I love a series. And yes, the third book is already in the making. It’s called A Collection of Gods and Monsters and it’ll be lat least 3-5 years before it is done.

Before that, I have a science fiction collection almost finished, without the series title because it was named years ago. It’ll feature a grand tour of the Universe and encompasses over 20 years of my best work in science fiction poetry.

LDA: What is your writing process like? Do you have places or things you do to setup a space to write?

CS: I can only write when it is quiet which really limits me as I have 2 kids at home with whom I love to have conversations. Often, when I am awake after they sleep, I pen a few poems, or if they are out with their friends, which won’t be happening again soon, I have a stretch of quiet time to write. The smart phone had been a tremendously helpful invention for me and I write and edit a lot on it, simply because if there’s a block of time when I can write, my phone is here with me. 

LDA: Do you have advice for other writers/poets/women interested in horror/fantasy writing?

CS: Read a lot, watch lots of movies, be inspired, find a writer or poet whose style you love and admire, study it, emulate it, modify it to become your own, then keep writing every day. A haiku, a poem, a story, a journal entry.

LDS: Tips for handling submissions/rejections?

CS: I have a system of keeping work out there all the time and honestly, these days, I forget about a submission once I send it out so when a rejection comes, I’ll look for a next market. While it is natural to feel dejected after a rejection, understanding that it is about the fit of my work to a venue’s needs rather than a rejection of the work or myself, helps. Sometimes though, it is about the quality so I have a habit of reading through the work once before sending it out again. Of course, if the editor is generous in giving feedback, I am very grateful and I’ll apply what they say to my revision before it swiftly goes out again.

LDA: In my early years I loved reading what others would consider non-genre poetry, like Edgar Allen Poe, how did you enter into writing speculative poetry?

CS: I think all the way from the beginning, I’ve always written dark poems. Afterwards it was just labeling it as horror or speculative or dark. I grew up hearing stories about how my home was haunted, watched horror movies with my brother, and grew up with the genre which was huge in the ‘80s when I was a teen.

LDA: I’m drawn to learning different poetry forms; one of my favorite forms I’ve learned is Fibonacci Sequence. I love your short poetry, can you talk about how you were drawn into haiku form?

CS: Given the little time I have had to write, I was fascinated by how much one could fit in so few lines and as a lover of the subject Logic, found it almost mathematical in its brevity. I can’t recall my exact journey to short poetry but Scifaikuest and Star*Line had a lot to do with it.

LDA: Is there a form you’re working with now or a new form you want to play with?

CS: I’m enjoying joined poetry, short poems linked together, something I can finish in one sitting and yet give it much more detail and depth than in a haiku or tanka. Sometimes it organically becomes a longer poem. I let it guide me to what it wants to become.

LDA: With your fiction publication in Space & Time Magazine and previous flash fiction in other publications, can you talk about the process of creating fiction vs poetry vs art for you?

CS: Fiction is something I feel I need more study on. I write my stories like a long prose poem but I’m learning it is quite different in many ways. I’d love more formal training in it when the kids are older and I have longer breaks of time to work on fiction craft, but for now, I am grateful to the editors who have given my stories homes. Those stories have often taken years to edit to their final forms.
Ladies of Horror Flash, which was introduced to me by the wonderful Marge Simon, gives out prompts monthly and writing regularly has helped me generate story ideas and work on flash fictions which I can finish in the time it takes me to write a poem or two. Poetry has been my therapy. I’ve been writing it since I was a kid. I have no formal training but I have an ear for it. It’s like music. I can’t read notes but I play the piano by ear. Not very well either but with poetry, it has to sound right and look right visually. 

For me, my poem has to look beautiful as poems are when we read them, so if you notice, it is important to me that the lines are aligned neatly and the stanzas consistent.

LDA: Have you considered doing something longer like a novel?

CS: Yes! But first I must improve my fiction writing. I have that one trilogy plotted out in my mind already with the characters all in place. I just need the time, the craft, and the skill to write it. And I’ll share a secret. I’ve already begun telling the story.

LDA: Can you talk about you the artist, you have a business website, and you run workshops, how did that side of you develop?

CS: After being home with the kids for some 13 years now, I felt I needed a way to generate an income for myself, something that was mine. Over two years ago, I met the woman who would be my art teacher at an art road show and she taught my children how to paint in pastels. When I started looking for a teacher to take the certification course in pastel art with, I found her face familiar and kind. Only after we began classes did I realize she was the same lovely lady from 2 years ago. She had built such an incredible community of artists and teachers in just 2 years. She gave me many teaching opportunities to help me kick off my business and while I have only begun, I hope to expand into eventually teaching poetry too. It was during this time, that I realized that I enjoy teaching and it brings me great joy to see my students experience the peace and fulfillment at completing a piece and discovering that art is in all of us.

LDA: What other career would you have chosen, outside of writing?

CS: I really wanted to be a part of Interpol, with my Criminology degree, but I was 20 years too early. They recently opened a branch in Singapore.

LDA: What do you have in the works for the future?

CS: A short story collection in about 5 years I hope, a dark horror poetry collection, my science fiction poetry collection, and hopefully a novel trilogy.

LDA: Where folks can keep up with you online?

About Christina Sng

Christina Sng is an award-winning poet, writer, and artist. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne and spent most of her career as a corporate writer, web consultant, content producer, UX strategist, and information architect. Her poetry has appeared in numerous venues worldwide for over two decades and received multiple nominations in the Elgin Awards, the Dwarf Stars, the Rhysling Awards, as well as Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Best Horror of the Year. Christina won the Bram Stoker Award in 2017 for her first full-length book of poems A Collection of Nightmares.

About Linda D. Addison
Linda D. Addison grew up in Philadelphia and began weaving stories at an early age. She currently lives in Arizona and has published over 300 poems, stories and articles. Ms Addison is the first African-American recipient of the world renowned Bram Stoker Award(R) and has received four awards for collections: Four Elements written with Charlee Jacob, Marge Simon and Rain Graves (Bad Moon Books 2013); How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend short stories and poetry (Necon E-Books, 2011), Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (2007), Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (2001). Dark Duet (Necon E-Books, 2012), a collaborative book of poetry written with Stephen M. Wilson, was a 2012 finalist for the HWA Bram Stoker Award(R). She co-edited Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of horror fiction & poetry by African-American women (publisher Cedar Grove Publishing, 2017) with Kinitra Brooks and Susana Morris, which was a HWA Bram Stoker finalist in the Anthology category. In 2018 she received the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.

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