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Embracing our inner darkness: The Sonnetarium feature

Embracing our inner darkness

An Interview/Essay in

The Sonnetarium

Sept. 13, 2018


By Kristin Garth

As you read these words, Tianna G. Hansen is honeymooning. All during The Sonnetarium’s migration from Spider Mirror, our benevolent arachnid creator, to its new home at Rhythm & Bones, Tianna worked tirelessly to make sure all the columns joined the new site within days. She did this during her wedding week without even complaining. This nurturer of talent and phenomenal writer took time out of the most stressful, stupendously important weeks of a life to help me, a girl she’d never met. She not only physically did the work of rebuilding all this content in days, she gave me pep talks as I cried to her, overwhelmed by a wrinkle in one of my many projects.

She understood my pain. She, like me, is a Capricorn. Tianna is someone, like many of you, I have never met in real life. I submitted a short story to her I wrote about an experience stripping. I don’t write a lot of prose, but her reaction to this story, "Another Day At The Office", gave me confidence to do more. I recently, because of this, was published in Cheap Pop, another CNF short prose entitled "14 & Kneeling". I would never have had the courage to submit this far more painful piece of writing had I not had the experience I did with Tianna.

Now, I have the honor of being edited by her every week at The Sonnetarium. It’s so wonderful to work with someone as deeply passionate about writing as you and responsible. It’s no surprise that person is a Capricorn. It’s a natural fit for me here, and I’m endlessly grateful I found my way to Team Capricorn.

When I contacted her in need, I wrote two words in the subject of the email: Capricorn Emergency, and she responded immediately and did what Capricorns do best: got to work.

Now, she is on her honeymoon. Though I feel we are truly friends I didn’t even ask her where she was going to because honestly I feel like she has given us – given me so much, this is her time. I just hope she’s somewhere completely in the zen of the moment and happiness and forgetting us just for a few days and living a special private poem. I can’t wait until she gets back because this is the only thing more powerful than a Capricorn is a Capricorn squared …

I asked Tianna to be a feature in The Sonnetarium long before she became its host. When I write questions for interview subjects, I always give the option for an essay style answer as was first utilized in The Sonnetarium by Justin Karcher in his interview on the Mansion, our Slender Man anthology. Most people have opted to chat with me, but I’m not surprised that it was Tianna who opted to take road less traveled and write an essay response. This is a girl who is not afraid to work. Read her eloquent essay on her aesthetic and her writing here:



I hold a strong belief that by writing about and expressing the darkness I often feel within, it allows me to better understand it, to face my demons if you will, to know how to name them and how to feel about them, how to overcome them and not allow the darkness to overcome me. I have struggled all my life with depression and severe anxiety, extremely low self-esteem and sense of self-worth, and a lingering pain in the pit of my chest. My dark themes really open me up to exploring the deeper part of myself. It was interesting the other day that my fiancé (now husband) mentioned that I have a “dark side,” though he did not say this in any critical way. I believe a lot of that is influenced from my experiences in life, many of which have been unpleasant and painful, but I have survived each one, and that is the most important truth. Though I do write with a focus on darker themes, I always try and strive to show the light and brilliance in even the darkest of times and situations.

For me, I believe writing about this darkness allows me an outlet. I need to put my emotions, especially the dark ones, out onto paper. Like the butt of a cigarette, left smoldering in the ashtray. It is something that has always helped me both express myself and avoid exploding. I’ve experienced a lot of abusive relationships of many definitions, and because of that have often been abusive to myself, feeling I do not deserve happiness or am unworthy of nice feelings and things. This is something I still struggle to defeat daily, but I like to think it gets a little easier each day to accept the light that has entered my life in many ways. These lights include my husband (married Sept. 2); my numerous friends who I have gained along the way; my supportive and wonderful family; and my lit mag lovechild Rhythm & Bones, which I will also discuss a little further along. I try to allow this light, love, and positivity to emanate from me, as I know that it will help others in their paths and it also helps me when I give positive energy to myself and those around me. Which leads into the next topic, of inspiring others in the lit community and how I somewhat stumbled into a ‘leadership’ role. It has always been a dream and fantasy of mine to run my own literary magazine and after I became a larger part of the wonderful lit community, I started to realize that this was not only very possible, but I had a niche that I wanted to fill with darkness, pain, vulnerability, self-image, and overall self-discovery. Enchantment in the darker sides of the world, enthrallment with the night. But also that beauty which resides in the darkness, which I think we all wish to cultivate. Even when we may feel we are drowning, we can see light shimmering above, calling us back to the surface.

I guess that is where I get my strength, as well. As I mentioned briefly earlier, all that I have survived has given me strength. There are days when I feel I am 100 years older than my age of 25. When I am instead 125 years old and I have lived many lives already. As one might call it, an ‘old soul,’ someone who has a deep connection with reality and the earth and what occurs but also who has seen and experienced more than a fair share of misery. I guess that’s one thing I want to make with Rhythm & Bones – a safe place where people can come to tell their stories and share their pains. Reveal the beauty which still exists. As I called it at one point, “trauma-turned-art.” Show us your trauma but also show us how you have overcome that and how you continue battling it every day. Because we are all warriors. That is how I think of myself – not only a survivor but a warrior. Hardened to battle and unafraid to rejoin the fight.

One of the most rewarding things I have gained from running this lit mag is getting to know writers more personally. That is how I met the wonderful Kristin Garth, who runs this feature, and many other authors who I have published through Rhythm & Bones. It has been such a pleasure and honor to know these talented authors and poets and photographers and artists not only trust me with their work but trust in my opinion. I have felt so wonderful and fulfilled since beginning this lit mag, it is one of the best decisions and accomplishments of my life and I am eager to see it continue to grow. I have discovered a deep-rooted passion for publishing others’ work, it means more to me often than publishing my own, though I will never stop also being the champion of my own work, it is extremely satisfying and moving to champion another’s, such as Ailey O’Toole who I have grown very close with and am working with very closely in the design and creation of her chapbook, Grief and What Comes After which we are releasing and publishing in December of this year. That is something I never quite dreamed of doing, but after reading the chapbook, I knew I had to champion this work and bring it for the world to see. That is often the best feeling I get when accepting a piece of poetry, artwork, or fiction. Knowing that I can give these talented artists and creators a platform and knowing that I believe in every single one of them (even if I don’t accept their piece, which is the most difficult part of this – sending a rejection because unfortunately I cannot accept everyone, there is simply not enough room and it always hurts when I have to reject a piece because it has never once been based on quality of work).

Currently, other than Rhythm & Bones, I am working on my first novel; still in the drafting stage and a work-in-progress for nearly four years now. It was my senior thesis when I went for my MFA and has been extended and stretched until I am completely happy with it. I have had some excerpts from the novel published, notably my recent micro-fiction “Birds of a Feather” which appeared in Okay Donkey Mag and had two of the main characters, Zoë and Charlotte. Zoë tells the story through first person in my novel of how she came to be a prisoner inside Penumbra Penitentiary, the only women’s facility in my fictional New Mexican town. She murdered her abusive husband in revenge for killing their child when he pushed her down the stairs while pregnant. (Again, my darkness shows but I wanted to portray how many women in abusive relationships do not feel capable of leaving but do eventually fight back). This is a strong theme throughout the novel, and it is told with flashbacks every other chapter, describing Zoë’s life before prison and her current predicament as she struggles to find her freedom. I also had an excerpt published called “Chasing Cassandra” which is also the title of my novel, in the Issue Five of Cauldron Anthology. Each time I publish a short excerpt, it makes me view my style differently and so I think this novel could be in the works for a little while longer until I am happy with the style. I need to begin a new novel; my fingers are itching with it.

I am also working on combining some of my published and unpublished work into two collections – one a chapbook of poetry titled Metamorphosis detailing my struggles through depression, mental illness, and abusive relationships – overcoming the past and its grip on me in three sections: Captivity / Chrysalis / Rebirth. The second is a chapbook or perhaps longer collection of my creative nonfiction titled How to Become a Phoenix, dealing with similar themes as my poetry but in a different form that I greatly enjoy writing. I am currently seeking beta readers and publishers willing to accept these chapbooks upon their completion.

I have become very fascinated by flash fiction forms and shorter fiction. In recent months it has turned into quite a hobby of mine and I have grown to love the short and sharp minimalism this form offers.

That being said, I am always excited to see more of this at Rhythm & Bones. It is something we cultivate, the minimalist style in an ability to express so much. For our fifth issue, we are changing things up a bit with a themed issue on ‘hunger’ and all the ways that can mean to you, and will be accepting longer works of fiction up to 3,000 words for consideration. It’s always good to keep things new and different, which is also why we have just started a weekly blog feature called Necropolis which will have regular contributors (Kristin included!) with an original piece of art/poetry/etc. along with a blog post and feature. I’m really excited to see how this grows!

What is absolutely irresistible to me as an editor is strong emotions and entrancing characters/setting/description. Something I can lose myself in and create something entirely new to my outlook on the world. That is something I cannot ignore. And when they use darkness cleverly or have an element of pain, it grabs me immediately. I am not sure what fascinates me about deeply evoked emotions but I believe that is the ultimate purpose of writing – to share emotion and create emotion in our readers.

Growing Thorns

By Tianna G. Hansen

I once grew to love the short

sharp prick of thorns in my back

across my palms & sliced wrists

cowering in the darkness, unable to see

the light. Unable to hear the call of voices

begging me to become whole again.

Now I must grow to learn how to love

the brightness among the dark, the shadows

that cling and linger though I have already

come so far, though I have already

suffered enough, I believe, there is always

more to be had, and always, I hope,



Tianna G. Hansen has been writing her whole life, inspired by the natural world and the mystical one she believes in. She lives happily on her family farm in Pennsylvania with a lovely husband and cat. Check out more of her work on or follow her on Twitter @tiannag92.

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