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A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng
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it was amazing

The word ‘nightmare’ is used so often from one day to the next, it’s become almost clichéd: “that meeting was an absolute nightmare,” or “I had a nightmare my account balance was zero, then woke up to find I’d fallen asleep with my online banking app open, and it was no dream.” But if you revisit the actual definition of ‘nightmare,’ you’ll be reminded that the dreaming individual experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, and sorrow, and that the word was formerly used to connote a monster or evil spirit believed to oppress persons during sleep. Christina Sng’s Bram Stoker Award-winning collection could therefore not be more aptly named. Sng’s work elicits the same hypnagogic surreality you’ve felt infusing your prone and vulnerable sleeping form during a particularly terrifying omnibus of nightmares. And I, for one, enjoyed the eeriest and most gruesome poems of her collection the most.

“The Bone Carver,” “They Do Not Sleep,” and “That Evening,” butter you up with vivid prose (“...Bob is humming a tune, / Something our mother sang, many years past / When she sculpted megaliths out of / clay and bone / Before she too was gone.”) and alluring rhymes (“I stroke your soft black hair / And sing you Marlborough Fair.”), before dropping something as intricate and impressive as a velvety-legged and elaborately-patterned black widow spider into your lap (“I rise from the old sunken couch / In my stiff slow lazy crouch, / Letting your head roll from the lace / And into the screaming fireplace.” or “The hammering finally stops. / Bob places the bone doll into an airtight box / As we patiently wait for the news: / The boy fallen dead, asphyxiated on the spot.”). My husband asked me what I was reading upon finishing “That Evening” with an appreciative chuckle, and I said, “oh, honey, let me read it to you, it’s a lovely little poem about a lover and her darling sweet fireball of lumber...” That’s Sng’s work for you; it’s haunting and darkly humorous and begging to be shared.

Sng doesn’t just tease visceral reactions from her readers, but effectively guts you where you sit, moving you to the point of tears in but a few lines. “The Marvel of Flight” manages to send the reader along on a freefall from the top of a skyscraper to the earth below, but before you hit the pavement with the protagonist, this woman who’s dreamed of flying since she was a child, Sng issues a twist that extends those feelings of unease and weightlessness long after the poem’s final line.

The second half of Sng’s collection is rife with apocalyptic poems of several different themes and styles, but the piece that really moved me was “Twenty Years.” I should have known not to trust the direction this piece was going in; Sng had given me fair warning with the changing perspectives (alien vs. human; invader vs. invaded; gods vs. denizens) of the poems preceding this one. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that this poem affected me in sixteen stanzas the way some novels can’t do in 100,000 words.

Possible favorite stanza from “A Collection of Nightmares” (note, this is one of about thirty that I highlighted while reading the collection):

“Blood-filled icicles
Grow from my neck
Like wet giant fangs
After a kill.”
- “Visitation by Lady Death”

While a few select lines in no way do justice to “A Collection of Nightmares,” it should at least make it easy to discern the sheer talent with which Christina Sng is working. Head over to Raw Dog Screaming Press and experience her work for yourself, but don’t come crying to me if, as a result, you have the most terrible, and the most beautiful, of nightmares.
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Reading Progress

March 18, 2018 – Started Reading
March 21, 2018 – Finished Reading
April 6, 2018 – Shelved

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