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07.30.08

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Phaedra

Zombie Haiku

By Matthew Craggs


Robert Kirkman's two superpowered zombie runs at Marvel Comics have once again raised the zombie genre from the dead. Proving that no art form is safe from the clumsy evil, Ryan Mecum shows us the tender side of the mindless murderers with Zombie Haiku. The succinct format of a Western haiku—a three-line poem with five syllables, then seven, then five—is a natural fit for a creature with a limited vocabulary. Actually, Mecum's poems are closer in content and theme to another form of Japanese poetry called senryu marked for its dark humor, cynicism and lack of reference to nature, but Mecum sticks to the Western haiku format of 5-7-5. The narrative that Mecum creates through the haiku is effective as we see the degeneration of a poet who continues to write after he dies. Blood splatters and grisly photographs appear on the pages to round out the illusion created by the story, but eventually nagging questions—why does the poet use a typewriter when locked in a car covered in zombies? And how can a zombie use a pen but not open a door knob?—ruin the effect. The narrative also forces exposition into the haiku form, and Mecum can't save some of it from being mundane and poetic only in format. However, Mecum understands the appeal of zombies, which is joyfully evident. It's hilarious when the zombie views babies as Happy Meals and remembers to chew with his mouth shut while eating his mother because that's how she would have liked it. References to Judith O'Dea's character from the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and the obligatory trip to the mall are nods to previous zombie canon that fans of the genre will appreciate. Like a zombie movie that tries to push past the 90-minute mark, Zombie Haiku could have trimmed down on the story to get right to the blood and guts, but there is enough wit and bite in Mecum's verses to keep the book from being DOA. (Ryan Mecum; How Books; 160 pages; $9.99; paperback)


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