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Friday, October 8, 2010

Repost: Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

I reviewed this last year for Helluva Halloween, but to gear up for this weekend's interview with Ryan Mecum, I wanted to share it with you again.  Enjoy...

Awhile back, I participated in a little poetry challenge. The challenge was on the blog of the lovely Velvet of vvb32 reads. The challenge was to write zombie haiku to win a book called (you guessed it) Zombie Haiku. Imagine my excitement when I was one of the lucky winners! (Thank you, Velvet). So I got my pretty little book of bloody, pus-y (how do you spell pus with a y? I don't mean that as a dirty joke, I just don't know...) book of zombie poetry, and it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting and hoping for.

The story: The "story" unfolds via a man's poetry journal. Intending to document the glory of life, it ends up recording the downfall of civilization as he:
runs from zombies,
is bitten by zombies,
becomes a zombie,
bites and creates more zombies,
and embarks on the never-ending quest for fresh flesh and the all important zombie food source, brains.

Some of this anonymous man's poetry is only so-so (but what do you expect of a man who keeps a haiku poetry journal), and his pre-zombification haiku are as pretentious and pointless as you'd want them to be. But when said poet gets bitten, things take a turn for the worse -- while his haiku takes a visceral turn for the better, in my opinion. Dripping blood and pus and various other fluids onto the pages of his precious journal, he goes in search of the first of a slew of meals - -I mean, victims. (I'm not going to tell you who the first victim is, but ugh).

My thoughts: I previewed a few of the disgustingickyawesome haiku on a previous teaser tuesday, but they were just the, *ahem* tip of the juicy cortex. Though there are throwaway bits, there are some moments of gross brilliance in here. Our mysterious zombie man retains his vocabulary pretty much intact (which somehow doesn't seem ridiculous), but everything becomes a little stilted and skewed, creating a nicely eerie, Other effect. And of course, some of his phrasing, reactions and desires are just hilarious. Some of my favorites:

I keep saying "brains."
I remember other words,
but I just need one

Little old ladies

speed away in their wheelchairs,
frightened meals on wheels.

Everything I thought
tasted a lot like chicken
really tastes like man.

He tends to not flinch

though I'm yelling in his ear,

which is in my hand.

But even in all the slapstick and predictable freak out of zombie-time, there is still a nice undercurrent of just how gross and wrong this is. Mecum made some nice choices in how he slides things in to keep the reader from getting complacent. I thought this was absolutely brilliant, simple yet jarring:

Bodies pile up.
It seems bullets can stop us,
not that it stops us.

On the subject of choices, I think Mecum was pretty dead on through out. The progression from surviving human to crumbling zombie is interesting, and the choice of haiku, these short little bursts of thought, is fitting in a way that seems so far-fetched and yet obviously appropriate that it ends up being the perfect choice for a zombie narrator.

Design: And the design of this book is brilliant. It is the perfect complement to the text, adding a layer of ick and reality that makes you feel more like you are holding someone's bloody journal, discarded after the world has ended. There are polaroids of zombies "taped" into the journal, maggots, green and bloody smears, sketches, grime and clumps of hair -- it all works together to make the book more of an experience. And it is crucial, I think, because in spite of the continually funny and occasionally brilliant haiku, the book would be too slim and inconsequential without really great design.
My final say: Long story short, if you're in to zombies, looking for a light/fun/gross/seasonal read, this is a great way to go.

Bonus Material:

Zombie Haiku has its own awesome website with a zombie blog, haiku, sample pages, and haiku sent in by authors, comedians, random celebrities, etc., inspired by the zombie mayhem. Some of my faves:

Brain eating monsters
Make disappointing lovers
Because of the fear
- Michael Ian Black, comedian and writer of My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face

The day I died you
tried to put a bullet in
my head. You missed. Lunch!
- David Wellington, author of the terrifying Monster Island trilogy

You are my desire.
Eating your luscious love thoughts
My Junk Just Dropped Off
- Christopher Moore, author of many great books including You Suck: A Love Story

On the site, there's also a page where Mecum mimics the style of famous poets -- if they were zombies. Things like:

Zombie Haiku by William Shakespeare
To bite through the skull
or beat it against the wall?
That is the question.
Zombie Haiku by Sylvia Plath
From head to black shoe,
daddy, I had to eat you
because I’m starving.
Zombie Haiku by Robert Frost
Two lobes in the skull.
I eat the bloodier one –
not much difference.

Zombie Haiku also has its own Myspace page, which is the location of the blog.


  1. I just went and wishlisted this book after reading your post. My students would love this! And, I saw other haiku books while I was on amazon. Thanks for the lead!

  2. Thank you for reposting! I had missed this. >_<

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