Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poetry -- Zombie Haiku

Bibliographic Data
Mecum, Ryan. Zombie Haiku. Cincinnati, OH: How Books, F+W Media, Incorporated, 2008. ISBN 9781600610707.

Plot Summary
In a series of progressively mindless (in true zombie style) haiku, Mecum shows us that even zombies have a heart - even if it isn't beating anymore.

Critical Analysis
A haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry, containing three lines. The pattern for the poem consiste of 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables. Haiku are usually about beautiful, peaceful aspects of nature. So what can you say about haiku purportedly written by a dead, mindless, decaying zombie?

This is supposedly a poetry journal by an anonymous poet. Ryan Mecum starts his anonymous poet off with poems about normal poetry topics. The human who eventually becomes the zombie writes about love, flowers, and springtime. BUT. There are notes in another handwriting, scribbled on the front title page by a different individual named Chris Ryan. Chris tells us about the plague, and about how "somehow, people turn into these things when they die or if one bites them" (2). Ironically, the haiku just before Chris's scribbled note is:

                 My soul hovers up
          climbing from its stomach cave,
             to give my heart warmth. (2)

What foreshadowing! If this poor guy only knew what his stomach and heart will be subjected to over the next few hours. A few more haiku further on, our soon-to-be zombie poet writes:

               Fifty years from now,
          When I am slow, old and gray,
             will she be there, too? (3)

Missed again! He won't be gray in fifty years, he'll be gray by tomorrow evening. Slow, too.

Things progress from bad to worse. Our hero writes about being trapped high on a billboard sign with a horde of zombies waiting below for him:

                  for hours, I sit.
            Morning turns to afternoon,
            and they keep staring. (22)

Our plucky hero climbs into his car and waits to die after trying unsuccessfully to escape the zombies without being bitten. At this point, Mecum cleverly adds splashes of red to the pages, and the handwriting becomes erratic. Oh, no, what's happening?

           Something is not right.
          If my blood is in puddles
         Why do I feel strong? (29)

Now that our protagonist has (un)succesfully changed into a zombie, Mecum's poems get outrageously, disgustingly funny. Zombies are always hungry for fresh human meat, and this hunger is aptly demonstrated:

           You think I'd get full
          eating so many people,
          but really, I don't. (50)

Even Mecum's weakest haiku serves to highlight the zombie's singleminded hunger:

                    Brains, BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS.
          BRAINS, brains, Brains, BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS.
                 BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS, brains. (32)

Mecum illustrates this book with photos taken by the zombie poet before and after his transformation into a zombie. Although the photos aren't very clear when taken by the zombie poet vs. the human poet, this is in keeping with the theme of the book, that this poetry journal was created by a zombie with nothing on his mind but the desire for human flesh. What we do make out fits in with the haiku surrounding each photo. For example, when the zombie enters a wheat field in search of humans hiding in the dark, the photograph shows two zombies staggering through a wheat field at night. When the zombie hordes travel down the highway, there is a photo of out-of-focus zombies staggering down a highway with arms askew and legs stiff.

Although my 14 year old daughter found this book totally repulsive, Zombie Haiku raised an interesting dilemna in my mind. If this zombie poet thinks only of eating human flesh, then how does he maintain enough sensibility to write perfect haiku? My rational side says it's not possible and I should just accept this book as fantasy, but my poetic side tells me that poetry is something that is internalized, not something that can be detached from your spirit. This book could raise all kinds of questions such as "Is the zombie's soul still alive?," "Is poetry an instinct or something we acquire?" and so on. Unfortunately, this kind of metaphysical discussion is beyond the scope of this blog, but it's still interesting to contemplate.

Admittedly, the gross subject matter might be a little much for the squeamish, but if you read beyond the rotting body parts, bloodsplatters, and maggots to the poetry within, this haiku collection is actually addressing the questions I raised in the previous paragraph. This man's/zombie's poetry cannot be contained within in him. No matter what happens to the poet's body, the poetry will come gushing out - just like the blood, guts, and assorted other body parts in these poems.

Awards and Honors
Baker & Taylor Paper Clips July 2008 (Formerly Hot Picks)

Review Excerpts
Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies
"A thoroughly unique and entertaining experience. Ryan Mecum has quite possibly found the only corner of entertainment not yet infected by the zombie plague--haiku--and made me wonder why it took this long, as the two seem to go together like zombies and brains. I highly recommend it to fans of all things zombie." (

David Wellington, author of Monster Island
"The most inventive zombie book in years!" (

Book Hook
Pair this book with Ryan Mecum's brand new book, Vampire Haiku (How Books, 2009).

Online Connections
  • For "The King of Giggle Poetry," Bruce Lansky's views on writing Haiku, click here.
  • For another weird but hilarious look at zombies, check out "What to Do in a Zombie Attack", available here.
  • For more information on zombies, click here.
Sources Last accessed November 18, 2009 from

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