A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng
Raw Dog Screaming Press (April 2020)
169 pages; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Christina Sng’s collection A Collection of Nightmares won the Bram Stoker award for best poetry collection in 2017. Her follow-up book, A Collection of Dreamscapes, has all the promise of her previous successes. It’s already been listed as one of Reading Vicariously’s Must-Reads from 2020, Tor Nightlife’s Ten Best Horror Poetry Collections of 2020, and Well Read Beard’s Top Five 2020 Poetry Collections, as well as being short listed for the 2021 Stoker Award. Reading the collection, it is obvious why it is receiving so many accolades. It’s a very strong collection of mythic horror poetry that readers will enjoy.
Sng begins with a poetic sequence about Allegra. The poems in this section are primarily free verse, unrhymed tercets, and tell a lesser-known story from ancient mythology. As the poems continue throughout the section, the stanzas get longer. This is a very unique technique that works in a subtle way to capture the reader’s attention and get them wrapped up in the tale. By the time they’re twenty pages or so into the narrative, the stanzas have grown to quintains, and the reader is caught up an a story of love, death, war, longing, etc. It’s a very strong narrative opening for this collection and one that sets the tone for the rest of the book.
The second section of the book focuses on Fairy Tales. Sng hones in on familiar European fairy tales, but takes them back to their darker origins. While fairy tale poetry is nothing new, Sng is able to breathe new life and unique perspectives into her fairy tale poems. Plus, she’s able to touch on the darker, horrific aspects of these classic tales, which makes the section all the more resonant.
The third section in the book, All the Monsters in the World, delves deeper into the horror. This section begins with a mythic focus on nightmare creatures, things of darkness and shadow, that are part of our primal collective fear. However, Sng quickly moves towards monsters that are all too real in this world. This middle section shifts the book to the really darker horror poetry for which Sng is so famous, and readers will not be disappointed.
The fourth section, The Capacity of Violence, drives the deep fear in this collection home. The poems in this section are grisly, and border on body horror. As much as some of the imagery works on a basic shock value, the narratives within this section and tales of revenge and haunting are really strong, too. While there is much gore here, it’s not without reason, which makes it all the more scary for readers.
The last section, Myths and Dreamscapes, returns to global myths. Sng also touches on some of her science fiction roots, too, by does so in a mythic way. This is another good selection of poems, and one that pulls back the reader a little from the visceral horror of the previous sections. It’s a solid way to end this collection.
Overall, this is another strong effort by Christina Sng. While some readers may nitpick about the occasional miss in this collection, the bulk of the narratives in this book are strong. If one is a fan of Sng’s previous collections, they will not be disappointed, and readers of horror poetry will certainly want this book in their permanent library.