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October 31, 2008

Book Notes - Ryan Mecum ("Zombie Haiku")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Zombies have always been my favorite of the undead characters, and there is usually a zombie DVD queued up or a zombie novel, comic, or graphic novel on my nightstand. As familiar as I am with the genre, Zombie Haiku surprised me. This zombie's journal shares his life via haiku, and is in turns filled with gore, humor, and a surprising amount of charm.

I can't think of a better book to spend Halloween with...

Ain't It Cool News wrote of the book:

"This is the single best zombie read I have laid my eyes on this year and sure to show up in my picks for best original graphic novel of the year. The book does a phenomenal job of going into the mind of a zombie and does so in a creative and wholly new and imaginative way. If you have a taste for horror, this quirky little book is for you. But if you're a zombie fiend like myself, you should make it your single minded goal to seek out this book and digest then savor it. It's a true gem of a book for those with a taste for the macabre."

In his own words, here is Ryan Mecum's Book Notes essay for his book, Zombie Haiku:

I wrote a book called Zombie Haiku about a zombie who writes haiku. It is both gory and adorable. Many of the small poems can be enjoyed on their own, but the haiku in the book are aligned in way that, if read in sequential order, tell one epic zombie story. Like most zombie poets, I am a big fan of this blog and I am exited to share with you some of the music that was influential on my zombie haiku.

"Earth Died Screaming" – Tom Waits

Blood is really warm.
It's like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming.

The 15 year old kiddies who hang out at the mall in their Hot Topic death metal t-shirts all think they know scary music. If Tom Waits and his harmonica were thrown into the Thunderdome, the Insane Clown Posse would beg not to be thrown in next. The first time I listened to the Tom Waits album Bone Machine, I turned it off about 2 minutes in. This song was the first track, and over the sound of satanic horse trotting, I was positive I was hearing the voice of a demon being tortured. Only due to constant rave reviews did I dare try the album again. I was older and had a better grasp that the man singing the songs would not be able to jump out of my stereo and grab me. I was wrong, he jumped out and grabbed me tight. I now carry the music of Tom Waits where ever I go, and I am a darker man because of it. "Hell doesn't want you and Heaven is full". When humanity turned into zombies, the earth died screaming indeed.

"When We Become" – Clem Snide

The taste of liver
is hard to get off the tongue
but spleen does the trick.

Eef Barzelay is one of the wittier lyricists currently writing music. Lyrics like "yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon" almost challenge the listener to attempt to find meaning. However, the music of Clem Snide can be so refreshing with their easily assessable lyrics that twist and surprise the listener. I attempted to twist a lot of my zombie poems to have a bit of a surprise. That being said, this particular Clem Snide song is not included for its witty lyrics, but because the chorus repeats "when we become what we're running from", which only makes me think of a pessimistic zombie plague survivor. I am positive that was not their hope.

"Saddest Vacant Lot In All The World" – Grandaddy

My steps leave footprints.
Many of us leave a trail
like snails on cement.

I took a lot of the photographs in this book outside an abandoned Wal-Mart. About thirty of my friends dressed up like zombies and roamed the empty parking lot as I snapped pictures. Parking lots are quite common in the zombie genre, and the sadder the better. This particular lot we used complements this song well.

"Stumble" by R.E.M.

Stumble through the yard,
only to fall down and on
the guy with one leg.

I wrote a lot of zombie haiku. The book has about 350 of them. Not all hit quite like a great haiku should. In order to move the narration along, some of the haiku are more transitional to keep the story moving. Most of these I like, but a few can be awkward if read out of context. The above haiku is easily the most painful example of this. However, this is partially due to my driving desire to quote this R.E.M. song somewhere in the book. The song lyric "we'll stumble through the yard" played itself over in my head throughout most of the writing of this book. Early R.E.M. was such an influence on me that, for a while, I was working on a way to get my zombie poet narrator down to Athens for some kudzu themed haiku. Luckily, I was able to eventually drop that idea, and all the night gardening and moral kiosk references with it. However, this painful poem snuck in and I love it.

"Everything Means Nothing To Me" – Elliott Smith

I loved my momma.
I eat her with my mouth closed,
how she would want it.

This chorus became my motto whenever I wanted my zombie narrator to have a bit of a moral compass. One of my favorite parts of the book is when the zombie poet goes to his mothers house and eats her. I wrestled a bit if maybe that idea was a little too much, and possibly let the mother get away. This song guided me back to the bloody reality of what the zombie's relationship with his mom meant to him.

"My Father's House" – Bruce Springsteen

Thinking about dad
makes me think of better times
but then back to meat.

Few albums rattle my bones like Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. I do not have the ability to get sick of it. The family allegories wrapped in religious symbolism fascinates me. "My Father's House" works as a song about a son who longs for the security of family, or as a song about a man who thinks God has given up on him. The song actually feels like a cold, pitch black night, with no hope for a rising sun. The above haiku is my attempt to subtly mix the idea of religious sin into the story. Our zombie can not escape his desire for something that he knows will only lead to wanting more of it. Consumerism is a common zombie genre theme, and it was fun to throw some haiku with this theme into the mix.

"Gouge Away" – Pixies

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

Whenever the story took our zombie poet to a large human population, this chorus would repeat in my head, "gouge away, you can gouge away". The Pixies should be somehow referenced in all future zombie stories. If this song was in the Dawn Of The Dead remake, I would have been more accepting of it. However, this song was not in that film, so it sucked.

"Via Chicago" - Wilco

I know he can't see
because the room is pitch black
and I have his eyes.

This book had me wrestling with unique ways a zombie could devour a human. Nothing I wrote is as brutal as the first verse of this song. For some reason, I feel comfortable writing about zombies eating eyeballs, but I cringe every time I hear Jeff Tweedy singing about sending a person to their demise in a firework display as it rains down on him. Touché, Mr. Tweedy.

"Kicker Of Elves" – Guided By Voices

My rigor mortis
is mainly why I'm slower,
and the severed foot.

The entire Bee Thousand album by Guided By Voices feels more like a series of song snippets than whole songs. I love this album and find each song wonderful. However, all together, the little songs on Bee Thousand create one whole impenetrable album. When I was putting my zombie haiku in order to create one large story, this album was a guide. Each song is fun, but all of them tied together is what makes Bee Thousand so special to me. I could have chosen any song from this album as an influence for Zombie Haiku, and "Demons Are Real" felt too predictable. I doubt Robert Pollard considers himself a haiku song writer, but I do.

"Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone" – Neutral Milk Hotel

A man starts yelling
"when there's no more room in Hell…",
but then we eat him.

This is totally a stretch, but any respected mix needs at least 10 tracks unless you have some really long songs. There are some lyrics in this song that talk about a hole in your head and the feeling you get when you realize you're dead, which arguably are pretty zombie sounding. However, whenever making a mix, I try to throw on something from Neutral Milk Hotel's much underappreciated first album. I prefer the song "Naomi", but the closest lyrics that could be zombie themed were about tasting Naomi's perfume. This could imply a zombie eating Naomi's perfume covered neck, but I knew you weren't going to fall for it. Besides, the song above talks about riding roller coasters into the ocean, and who wouldn't want to picture a zombie doing that?

Ryan Mecum and Zombie Haiku links:

the book's website
the book's MySpace page
the book's video trailer
the author's Monroeville Mall Zombie Walk Photos

Ain't It Cool News review
The Armchair Critic review
Consider the Daffodil review
Metroactive review
Philadelphia Weekly review
Pop Candy review
Sacramento News & Review review
Things That Fade With Time... review
What We Talk About When We Talk About Blogging review

Cincinnati Enquirer profile of the author
The Living Dead interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musicians and authors explain their support of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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