A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng (Dark Poetry Collection, 2017).
This book-length collection of Christina Sng’s poetry offers up 47 darkly fascinating poems. A horrific/doomsday tone predominates, quite often mixed with science fictional aspects. With that in mind, the frequency of narrative/story-telling poems is no surprise.
Another recurrent theme interwoven in the fabric of this book is that of motherhood and/or familyhood in the face of disaster, allowing for multiple (and nicely varied) moments that sometimes focus on loss and yearning (as in the deeply moving “Mirror to the Other Side”) or desperate courage and a search for meaning among the ruins of the world.
Those latter elements, accompanied by a satisfying and heartfelt twist on a well-worn SF motif, are on particular display in the Rhysling Award Nominated “Twenty Years.” As the ecologically battered Earth teeters closer to ultimate collapse, a young mother and her kids are about to board a departing starship for a last-chance voyage to a new world (that may or may not even be livable). The only alternative would be to stay behind with her elderly parents, providing all three generations with a last few years as a family. Her final choice and a great, yet simple last line make “Twenty Years” my single favorite poem in a book full to the brim with excellent work.
It’s also far from the only previously honored (and I dare say honor-worthy) poetry here.
Four of these poems were saluted with Honorable Mentions in various editions of the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies. “The Art of Weaving” evokes macabre acts of magical creation. “The Bone Carver” features a chilling form of vengeance by way of sympathetic magic. “The Marvel of Flight” presents defiance in the face of deadly disease. And “Crimes of Our Youth” has a narrator seeking some measure of redemption from past horrors she was party to.
Real, often desperate emotion flourish here. Yet it is by no means all pain and gloom in Sng’s poetic world.
The fatal aspects of things are sometimes tempered with dry, even gleefully murderous humor, as in “A Mosquito’s Tale” (at 4 lines easily the shortest effort here) and the ironic concrete poem “The Atomizer and the Matchbox” (in which peace on Earth is realized, though “…at a price, of course”). In “The Confluence,” a hellish alien invasion is thwarted via delightfully absurd means.
Actually, invasion by aliens (and/or humans as the invaders) is another familiar SF theme that she repeatedly plays off of to good effect. “D-Day” provides a specially satisfying twist on that.
Not many ‘traditional’ monsters are employed here. A notable exception: In “Children of the Apocalypse” the narrator and her two children are in full-on battle and flight mode from zombies. Yet even here, Sng manages an understated bit of something extra–I won’t say what, so you’ll have to read it for yourself.
And while you’re at it, read the rest of the book. Highly recommended!