Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Geneve Flynn’s Sneak Peek

A preview of ‘Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken’

Geneve Flynn

 

Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

Poetry by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn

 

I’m thrilled to introduce Tortured Willows, a collaboration by four authors from the Bram Stoker® and Shirley Jackson Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women which continues the exploration of otherness, expectation, and tradition. 

 

In writing for this collection, I had to be brave on two counts: it was my very first foray into poetry; and I would be writing about deeply political issues and challenging cultural norms. Asian women are expected to be gentle, quiet, accepting. To be outraged and outspoken is such a foreign state. Tortured Willows allowed me, once again, to step into this space. 

 

With a foreword by dark fiction writer, poet, and historian, K.P. Kulski, the author of Fairest Flesh, and a stunning cover design by Kyra Starr, Tortured Willows releases on Poetry Day, 7 October 2021, from Yuriko Publishing.

 

Last week, Lee Murray shared her beautifully horrific poem “cheongsam” and the inspiration behind the work. This week, it’s my turn—the fledgling poet among my sister Cranes—to offer an advance peek of one of my poems from the collection. These are the first five stanzas of my pantoum:

 

WHEN THE GIRLS BEGAN TO FALL

 

I was seven when the girls began to fall.

Don’t look, Lian, they said. Stay away.

But grounded, shattered, their bodies twitched and danced.

What did it mean, to be so high?

 

Don’t look, Lian, they said. Stay away.

The statue soars above the trees; taller.

What did it mean, to be so high?

He watches, stone eyes unblinking.

 

The statue soars above the trees; taller.

When I am nine, the girls still fall.

He watches, stone eyes unblinking,

Circle him with bamboo spikes; the girls still find a way.

 

When I am nine, the girls still fall.

They lock them inside, release them for work.

Circle him with bamboo spikes; the girls still find a way.

Climbing, up, and up, and up. What do they see?

 

They lock them inside, release them for work.

Each year, still, they fall; younger and younger.

Climbing, up, and up, and up. What do they see?

There is nothing. Only the willows, bending, bowing. 

 

 

This came to me as a single striking image in a dream. I saw four girls stepping off a telephone pole, and their broken bodies when they hit the ground. Angela Yuriko Smith wisely suggested a pantoum, a Malay poetic form, which, of course, being from Malaysia, I had to try. The poem explores the stark coming-of-age moment when girls first realise the glass ceiling that exists above them, and learn that in order to rise higher than what is allowed, they must risk everything. You can read the full pantoum in Tortured Willows.

 

 

Tortured Willows

Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

 

The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.

 

In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

 

Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.

With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.

   

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1 Response

  1. October 14, 2021

    […] The Horror Tree Blog TourLee Murray — CheongsamGeneve Flynn –When The Girls Began to Fall […]

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