Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

The undead and short-form metered verse: two great tastes that taste great together. Or, if you're like me, one great taste that makes the other taste edible.

When I was a wee one, my mother would give me aspirin crushed in honey. This succeeded in making me despise the taste of both aspirin and honey. Luckily, author Ryan Mecum lays on that sweet, reddened corn syrup branded Humor About the Undead in sufficient quantities to make the bitter pill of haiku downright enjoyable.

Can you tell I don't like poetry yet?

While attending ZombieFest 2008 at the famed Monroeville Mall just outside Pittsburgh this past fall, I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan and buying the book directly from him--it was the first I'd heard of it, in fact. I commented to him at the time (rather apologetically) that, due to the choppy form, I suspected the collection might be best enjoyed as bathroom reading.

I've been wrong before, maybe once or twice. In fact, this genre-straddling work enjoys two worlds of benefits: the convenient, serialized brevity of a poetry collection and the addictive readability of a zombie comedy. (Don't ever ask me to call such a thing a "zomedy". I'm not a fan of neologisms, let alone neologistic portmanteaus. Just... don't ever ask.)

I was hooked because Mecum's verse is adroit and actually presents a single continuing narrative. It's related from the perspective of a lovestruck would-be poet whose scrawlings go from bad to worse as his pulse goes from existent to non-. More than handful of entries feel uninspired--just as the work enjoys two worlds of benefits, it also suffers in trying to meet two worlds of expectations. Once or twice, the poetry misses the 5-7-5 syllable rule for haiku. The comedy wilts a bit when the story is made to shuffle along with occasional filler pieces. With over 300 entries, the odd duds are expected. But overall, it is a fast read and a real romp, with frequent laugh-out-loud moments and lots of general zombie mayhem awesomeness.

But the best thing about Zombie Haiku is not the humor, not the zombies, and certainly not the poetry reading experience per se (can you tell I don't like poetry yet?). The best thing is that, when it's not ghoulishly funny, it's startlingly dark and effective. The humor is the right hand that lightly tickles your belly till you're in an absolute state. The grimness is the left hand that reaches behind and delivers a quick little sucker punch to your kidney. Then you get tickled again.

Lastly, the production details on this book bear mentioning. It's full-color throughout with a spot-gloss cover treatment. Rich blood spatters, filthy, crumpled backgrounds, demented sketches and eerie polaroid snaps make this book a visual delight. (Well, if you're a sick puppy like I am, anyway. ....and I know you are.)

At merely $9.99, this stunning, clever little collection is an excellent selection for a gift, a coffee table book, or, yes, even a bathroom book. Check out Mecum's Zombie Haiku website, where you can see video clips of zombies performing haiku and even download sample pages. You can buy the book through Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble online.

No comments: