Monday, June 1, 2020

INTO THE DREAMSCAPE: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINA SNG

Good morning friends and fiends, 

Today in the Madhouse, I'm excited to sit down and chat with poet, Christina Sng, who I've had the absolute pleasure of working with over the past few years through Raw Dog Screaming Press. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Sng and her work, she is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017), Elgin Award runner-up of ASTROPOETRY (Alban Lake Publishing, 2017), and most recently, the author of A COLLECTION OF DREAMSCAPES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2020). Her poetry, fiction, and art have appeared in numerous venues worldwide, and her poems have garnered multiple nominations in the Rhysling Awards, the Dwarf Stars, the Elgin Awards, as well as honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the Best Horror of the Year.

On deck today, we'll be chatting about poetry, the intersection between feminism and myth, the power of dreams, and how her poetry style has changed over the years.  I hope you all enjoy the conversation and will consider picking up a copy of her latest book and maybe dive into some more speculative poetry this summer.
Fresh hauntings,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

SMW: Tell us about your collection. What gave you the idea to create in this bizarre, horrific world, and in your opinion, what does it represent at its most literal and figurative heights?

CS: It actually came together on its own when poems I wrote filled up in each folder. They were the stories of my life, stories of people I know or had encountered, the stories of this time and era. I became its curator and it transformed into this grand myth, our story.

The collection represents our dark and complex history reflecting the good and bad of humanity. Whenever we give up on us, someone comes along and brings us hope as quickly as an evil person comes along to dash it again.

SMW: What was your favorite part of the collection to create and explore, and then to play devil’s advocate, what was the hardest for you?

CS: I loved creating new fairy tales to complete a section, fleshing out new versions of a well-loved story.

The hardest part was Myths and Dreamscapes and perhaps, The Love Song of Allegra which formed the crucial beginning and end of the overarching story.

SMW: Per the title of your collection, you’re dealing with dreamscapes, these nods to fantastical, sometimes nightmarish worlds. Because your collection is split up into parts, which was your favorite world to create in? And do you have a favorite poem in that section?


CS: I love them all, to be honest, each one a part of me. Here are my favourite worlds and why I love them, accompanied by my favourite stanzas.

Allegra, because her story represents everything we hope for that is good in this world.

“An innocence,
Once treasured,
Now regained,
Even if it was for
But a moment.”
~”The War of the Fall”

Fairy Tales, when we realize sometimes there is more evil than good and how we endure it is through resilience and acceptance.

“From that day forth, my dreams are sweet,
Covered in blood and sleet.
And oh, do I welcome it.”
~”Never Happy After”

All the Monsters in the World because as we grow older, we realize the world is not what it seems and sometimes we live life through blinkers.

“Do not take
A moment to rest,
For all you have done
Will flood you with emotion.”
~”Reflections”

“When you let your guard down
And forget just for a moment—
They always move faster than you.
So I have joined the darkness.
I have joined the shadows.
No one can touch me in the dark.”
~”When there are Monsters”

The Capacity of Violence because there is so much strength in us to fight back yet society has conditioned us to back down and be docile.

“You’ve always told me
That I warm up your heart.
I throw it in the fire,
Now, that’s a start.”
~”Mortal Life”

“They will arrive
With their guns and scythes,
Here we will wait
And eat them alive.”
~”Forest Mother”

“Wrongs made right for once
In this unjust world.
I close my eyes,
And enjoy the bloodbath.”
~”Upgrade”

“And with my bare hands,
I tore you apart.
Yes, adrenaline works like that.
You must have forgotten.”
~”A Capacity for Violence”

And Myths and Dreamscapes, because everything comes full circle: lies and exposure, hurt and healing, birth and death, and interspersed in between all that is love.

“In the sky, she could be
Whatever she wanted to be,
Mold the clouds into birds
And birds into clouds
Till soon, she would’ve made
A whole world of her own.”
~”Like Birds in the Shimmering Sky”

“And everything dies
But I, standing on the wasteland
Listening to the rocks cry.”
~”The Wasteland”

“Slowly we fade to star dust,
Drifting back into the skies,
Into the mysterious universe
Where we belong.”
~”Moonlight in the Playground”

SMW: There are tons of references to mythology, fairy tales, and enchantments throughout your collection. Do you have a favorite fairy tale or myth that you find yourself coming back to time and time again? If so, what about it appeals to you?

CS: Little Red. She’s young. She’s got her whole life ahead of her. And if she’s so tough as a child, imagine how powerful she will be when she grows up. Her potential is incredible.
Cinderella’s story intrigues me. Here is a girl who grew up abused and used. How does she keep on a happy face? How does she endure? The variations on her story explore this.

I love Medusa too and she has been a part of my last 2 books. I will be writing more about her in my following collections.

SMW: As someone who has personally had a rough time with sleep, insomnia, and night terrors throughout her life, I’m fascinated by the themes of unconscious exploration in your work. As such, I’m curious: how would you describe your connection or relationship to the night and/or the dream world?
CS: I feel safe and myself at night. I’ve been a night owl for as long as I can remember. Recent events have made me realize my mind can lock up so tightly that it was only after an EMDR session did I start dreaming again after years of dreamless sleep. This disconnect. It was for survival.

Yet even now, I have trouble sleeping and staying asleep. My mind is always ticking like a clock. I try to tire it out and make it go into sleep mode but sometimes that doesn’t last long. I wish I could sleep as well as I did in my 20s but those days are gone. I’ll be happy if I wake up feeling fresh and not woolly-headed.

SMW: This collection is made up of poems that you’ve written throughout various parts of your life. What challenges did you encounter—if any—during the revision process, especially with poems that you might have written years ago?

CS: As we grow as writers, our preferences and styles change. I’ve had to modify the structure of some of my older poems just to edit them because my brain can’t focus on long lines that flow from one to another anymore.

So if you look at almost all of my poems, they’re in short stanzas with short lines, easy to read for my current brain. It’s given me the chance to update them and revise them, and thanks to your wonderful advice on them, I’ve been able to make them better.

SMW: When it comes to poetry, you’ve been wildly published, and a lot of attention—and rightfully so—has been put on your skill set for writing haiku. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started writing haiku and maybe give some tips to fellow readers and writers of the form?

CS: I was at this point in my life where my poetry swung from long 2-3 page poems to being unable to write anything at all due to things that were happening in my life.

Somehow I came across Scifaikuest, which is edited by Teri Santitoro and I began to write 3-line scifaiku and horrorku. She guided me over a year through my submissions and finally, I got it.

From there, I moved to traditional haiku which focuses on mindfulness and healing. That got me through the next few years, writing almost daily. It was incredibly therapeutic.

The principles remain: A haiku emphasizes brevity. It requires a juxtaposition between the lines and a seasonal element. So when editing, we remove the extraneous words. The shorter, the better.

For me, haiku is like a butterfly you hold in your hand. You never own it or know it completely, and anytime it can just flutter away and you wonder how stayed on you for the time that it did.

SMW: What is next in store for your readers?
CS: I’ve almost finished my science fiction collection, which I’ve been compiling for the past 2 decades. However, I plan to take my time editing it so it may be another 3 years before it is done.

There is also a comprehensive collection of my haiku that has been sitting here waiting for a final review.

As for horror, I’ve begun collating a new themed poetry collection that will likely take a couple of years to complete.

I’d like to also finish a short story collection and a novel in my lifetime. They’re in the works but will take some time to finish. Perhaps when the children are grown. :D

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Praise for  A COLLECTION OF DREAMSCAPES, which is a book that takes us on a journey through dark mythologies and fairy tales, into the world of monsters, and a leap into the boundless depths of the human heart.

"A Collection of Dreamscapes is exactly what I have come to expect from Christina: full of heart, personal, and powerful while opening up her view of the world to include a variety of different lenses and angles of approach."—Anton Cancre, Author and Reviewer

"Three words that describe this book: immersive, creepy, accessible. If you like the short stories of Carmen Maria Machado, you also need to try Sng."—Becky Spratford, Readers' Advisor

"This book reads like a dream, dark and fantastic. Danger in a sort of soft packaging. Multiple subtle brushes of the knife, no less deadly than the full on stab."—@WellReadBeard, Reviewer

"The words on these pages are beautiful beyond measure, but they will also haunt you long after your close the cover."—Amanda Turner @readlingoctopus714, Reviewer

"Christina Sng has done it again with beautifully haunting poetry that will immerse you in a waking dream."—Jackie Cowgill, Reviewer

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