Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Lee Murray’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Lee Murray’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Geneve Flynn’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Christina Sng’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Angela Yuriko Smith’s Sneak Peek
A preview of ‘Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken’
Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken
Poetry by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn
I’m delighted to join my Crane sisters—Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Geneve Flynn—to bring you Tortured Willows, a collaborative collection comprising 60 poems expanding on the themes of otherness, expectation, and tradition that were introduced in our multi-award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards). 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. Today, I’m excited to give readers of The Horror Tree an advance peek of one of my poems from the collection:
my grandmother’s cheongsam
sewn from a Shanghai sunrise
with deep slits and black piping
and those tricky filigree buttons
that only a child’s fingers
I’ve seen a photo of her
wearing this very dress
at the age I am now
as slender as an erhu
dark hair like lacquered cabinetry
she’s a picture of tradition
I lift the dress from its camphor chest
hold it against me
on decades of dynasties
of we two, both daughters of the willow
and one of us a child of the devil
all it needs
is a minor alteration
to make space for me
I use the kitchen knife
slicing slivers from the hips
carving off the excess
and when at last I slip it on
my tainted blood blooms
red lotuses on sunrise silk
and I smile because it’s fitting
A very personal poem, “cheongsam” was inspired by a stunning cheongsam of pale silk decorated with dark piping that belonged to my grandmother, Wai Fong. Worn in the 1930s on her wedding day, when she was just nineteen years old, the garment was stored in a camphor chest for many years and might have seen more wear if any of my grandmother’s seven dainty daughters had been slim enough to wear it. Even more impossible for me, the half-caste daughter of a white devil (Caucasian) father. The poem is intended to demonstrate the otherness I experienced as a mixed-race child, even within my own family, and the desperate steps we might go to in order to belong.
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.