Lee Murray author, editor
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.
Winner: Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
Winner: Australian Shadows Award (for Cheongsam by Lee Murray)
Scroll down for readings, reviews, panels, and podcasts
Praise for Tortured Willows
“the haunting imagery within the pages of Tortured Willows will grab hold of you and refuse to let go--an absolute must-read!”—doungjai gam, author of glass slipper dreams, shattered
“Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken is an eye-opening, soul exposing journey.”—Amanda Headlee for Epeolatry Book Review
“These words may forever be etched upon my soul.”—Reed Alexander for Nightmare Feed
“Potent truths, rich details, and dynamic verse, these poems bloom with taut images that slice away preconceptions and deepen attention to appropriations of heritage and impositions of restricting expectations.”—E.F. Schraeder for Monster Librarian
“Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken is a beautiful book. The poems here are by turns dark, harrowing, furious, and moving, but they also invoke women’s strength and resilience. There is horror here, yes, but also light and beauty. Each poet has included commentary on each of her poems, which adds personal, historical, and cultural context and richness. These commentaries work together with the poems to create a singular work.”—Vanessa Fogg, It's a Jumble blogspot
“The four authors here are masters of dark fiction and have crafted some of the darkest, bleakest, most emotional poems I’ve ever read. Time and time again these poems created a look into certain situations that were so hard to read but so well written that it’ll leave you sobbing and struggling to move on to the next poem. But you’ll want to read the next one. And the next one. Just so, so good.”—Steve Stred, for Kendall Reviews
Praise for Tortured Willows
“This collection of poetry, without a doubt, will forever remain one of my all-time favorites. No matter how hard I pulled at the reins, I could not stop until every last poem was inside of me. The images created in my mind from the varying forms of poetic storytelling were haunting, terrifying, and wondrous, all at the same time. Nightmares will surely invade my dreams, but I welcome them. This collection holds such an important message about all those who were made to bend and bow at the will of another, and for those continuing to suffer. Four brilliant writers took me along for an intimate ride through the past and present. They allowed me to witness horror through fiction and fact. May the Willow-sisters be forever unbroken.”—Cindy O’Quinn, two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of “Lydia” and “The Thing I Found Along a Dirt Patch Road”.
“Four willows stood bound rooted to the shore, watching--- unquiet, waiting …”
from “Four Willows Bound” —Angela Yuriko Smith
“I liken Angela’s willows to this collection’s contributors. No longer silent, their poems speak of scars left by disappointment and hurt from male relationships. On a larger scale are feelings of helpless isolation due to racism, inspiring poems with an underlying outrage. I love the artful sections for each poet, as well as the background information given. You know you’re in for dark and deep poetic treats from these four super talents, all of them associated with the multiple award-winning collection, Black Cranes. Believe me, Tortured Willows is a keeper!” —Marge Simon, Bram Stoker and Lifetime Achievement Award-winner.
“As delicately woven as it is brutally vicious, Tortured Willows is a glimpse into the shadows of otherness and the sorrow of lost heritages that bends the spirit, but never breaks it. Each poem is a silk tapestry that tells the stories of four very different women with one powerful truth: you can transplant a willow anywhere, but you can never destroy their roots. A beautiful collection of verse that will both break your heart, and leave you breathless.” —Jezzy Wolfe, author of MONSTRUM POETICA
“A haunting, harrowing exploration of obligation, expectation, and sacrifice, poetry as unquiet fury and a lens on both past and present. Told in four unique voices yet speaking for countless silent generations of Asian women, Tortured Willows grips you by the throat and screams into the night, demanding to be heard.” —Dan Rabarts, award-winning author of the Children of Bane series.
“Women live with spectres gifted to us by our experiences. Tortured Willows breathes life into these shadows, reminding us that what has shaped us has not broken us. Woven throughout this collection is a sense of connectiveness with all women, but for a trick of fate their lives would be our lives. After each poem the poets (Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn Christina Sng, and Angela Yuriko Smith), reflect on the journey that led them to spill their words across the page, giving misinterpretation no chance to grow and overwhelm the rawness of their meaning. These poems reach deep into our primal response to fight, flee, or freeze in the face of an unending onslaught of a world trying to reshape us in their image. In the current climate of unquiet voices, Tortured Willows sweeps the reader up into a choir that will only grow louder.”—Piper Mejia, author of The Better Sister & Other Stories
“This groundbreaking collaborative poetry collection penned by four talented poets of Southeast Asian heritage is as insightful as it is important. Tortured Willows challenges the reader to engage with imagery and issues through the authors’ lens, resulting in a body of work that explores themes of otherness, inequality, the duty-bound and virtue-bound, diaspora and displacement. Asian mythology, historical events, family narrative, and personal experience are the springboards that launch these poems into dark and disturbing directions that recognise and reflect what it truly means to be a ‘willow’. A mix of traditional, contemporary, and culturally unique poetic forms have been deployed to convey themes of redemption and revenge, suffering and spirituality, cruelty and courage, delivering works that are raw and refreshingly different. Thought-provoking, unapologetically brutal, and downright unsettling, Tortured Willows is a collection unlike any you’ve read before…and one you’re not likely to forget. Murray, Flynn, Smith and Sng have not just raised their voices, they’ve roared them into the pages, and the result is simply superb.”—Rebecca Fraser, award-winning author of Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract.
“Tortured Willows bleeds, sobs and howls with rage. The poems stab at the monsters who desecrate, they release spirits to deliver revenge and honour the memories of mothers and grandmothers. The words of these four poets - Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Geneve Flynn and Christina Sng - cannot be ignored. By sharing often intensely personal experiences of otherness, of suffering and prejudice, they reach into your heart and demand you listen. In the words of Angela Yuriko Smith in her poem, Four Willows Bound: Four willows stood bound / in their sisterhood, in strength— / unquiet, waiting /They are waiting for you.”—Stephanie Ellis, writer and poet, co-author of Daughters of Darkness
“Just as perspective changing as Tortured Willows’s richly crafted poetry, is the unveiling of its intimate histories, masochistic horrors, ancient folklore, and feminine strength. In Tortured Willows, the many veils of a woman’s heart are peeled back, revealing multi-layered petals of an aching beauty, rooted on a stem of vulnerable resistance. Like willows, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, Christina Sng, and Geneve Fynn, grow from their broken pieces to triumph in the truth of what it means to be female, Asian, and human.”—Jamal Hodge, director, writer, visionary
“Willows, ghosts, and women rustling with the far east wind, telling stories, secrets and pains of spicy and distant places. The spirit of poetry in a Japanese print, a tea on the edge of Limbo. ”—Alessandro Manzetti, Two-Time Bram Stoker Award-winning author
“Tortured Willows bleeds, sobs, and howls with rage. The poems stab at the monsters who desecrate, they release spirits to deliver revenge and honour the memories of mothers and grandmothers. The words of these four poets – Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Geneve Flynn, and Christina Sng – cannot be ignored. By sharing often intensely personal experiences of otherness, of suffering and prejudice, they reach into your heart and demand you listen.”—Horror Addicts
Blogs, Articles, Podcasts, Vlogs
Tortured Willows, Skydiving, and the Magic of Poetry.
Geneve Flynn in a Guest Post on Join Me in the Madhouse by Stephanie Wytovich.
The Horror Tree Blog Tour
Lee Murray -- Cheongsam
Geneve Flynn --When The Girls Began to Fall
Christina Sng -- Midnight Wake
Angela Yuriko Smith -- Four Willows
Horror Addicts: Chilling Chat - Naching Kassa in conversation with with Gene Flynn
Horror Addicts: Book Review by Daphne Starsert
Horror Addicts: The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows: Angela Yuriko Smith
Horror Addicts: The Asian Myths and Monsters in Tortured Willows - Christina Sng
Horror Addicts: The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows - Lee Murray
Horror Addicts: The Asian Myths and Monsters in Tortured Willows - Geneve Flynn
An Interview with the Willow Sisters by Alyssa Vorobey for the Horror Writers Association
Epeolatry Book Reviews: Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken
Nightmare Feed: Reed Alexander's Literary Horror Review of Tortured Willows
Book Review: Monster Librarian (EF Schraeder)
Tortured Willows: Book Review by Vanessa Fogg on It's a Jumble
Tortured Willows: Book Review by Steve Stred on Kendall Reviews
The Pantoum: A Recurring Force in Asian Poetry. Guest post on Marge Simon's poetry column, Blood and Spades, HWA January 2022 newsletter.
The Fantastic Ms Yuriko Smith. Interview by Christina Sng. Interstellar Flight Press, March 2022