Undead Anonymous

Zombie Haiku: An Interview with Ryan Mecum

April 20th, 2011

Today I have a special guest who has stopped by for an interview. You could say he’s a supernatural poet, of sorts. Kind of like the Lorax, only instead of speaking for the trees, he speaks for zombies, vampires, and werewolves. And he does so through the use of haiku.

Please welcome Ryan Mecum, the author of Zombie Haiku, Vampire Haiku, andWerewolf Haiku.


SGB: In Zombie Haiku, you have the narrator writing about the zombie apocalypse and, inevitably, his conversion into a zombie through the use of haiku. What gave you the idea for the book?

RM: I once wrote a haiku as if I were a zombie wanting some brains. It made me smile so I wrote a few more. Soon I had about thirty gross haiku from the zombie perspective which I enjoyed sharing with friends. It wasn’t until I had a publisher interested that I realized I might be able to organize the little poems in such a way that they could all be part of a larger story.

SGB: So what came first? Your love of zombies or your love of haiku?

RM: Zombies came first. 7th Grade, Return of the Living Dead Part II. I learned haiku in 4th Grade, but didn’t fall in love with them until I had a roomful of fellow college classmates laughing at a few I wrote during a creative writing course.

SGB: Can you share one of your favorite entries from your book?

RM: It’s hard to beat the one in Breathers where you compare the sound of maggots eating flesh to Rice Krispies, but here goes…

Blood is really warm,
like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming

(Editor’s note: I love that one!)

SGB: You followed up Zombie Haiku with similar takes on the vampire and werewolf mythos. Did you find that one of these three lent itself to the haiku form more easily than the others? Are vampires more poetic than zombies? Do werewolves know how to count syllables?

RM: The haiku is such a stoic poetry form that, when reading them aloud, they often flow out as gracelessly as a lurching zombie. I have loved writing poems from the voice of a werewolf and a vampire as well, but there is something about a zombie writing a poem that resonates with me. Vampires probably think they’re more poetic than zombies, but there is an innocence to a poem written by a zombie versus a pretentiousness when written by a vampire. Werewolves don’t care, which make them a bit more poetic, but they are so rushed they might miss the moment. There’s a full moon above you, werewolf. Stop, enjoy it, and let out a howl.

SGB:In all three books, the narrative is from the point-of-view of someone who starts out human but who eventually becomes the “monster.” Are you sympathetic to the challenges of being a zombie, vampire, and werewolf? Or are you just channeling your inner monster?

RM: Totally sympathetic to the challenges of the monster. That is probably the main reason why I loved your book Breathers so much. I enjoy wondering about daily life from their perspective.

SGB: Do you have a favorite poet? Are there any other writers who have inspired you?

RM:Andrew Hudgins has a book called After The Lost War, which had a strong impact on my desire to be a poet. Billy Collins is another favorite. Both of these writers helped me realize that poems didn’t have to be riddles the reader had to solve. However, Stephen King is easily the one writer that left the largest impression on me. Not only did he feed my love for things that go bump in the night, but he also helped me want to be a writer because so many of his characters were writers. King gave me glimpses into the life of a writer, which has had a lasting effect on me.

SGB: On Twitter, you write haiku on subjects ranging from breakfast cereals to mixed tapes to Pac-Man. Can you write a haiku for us about public bathrooms?

RM: Would you believe I wrote one on that topic a few months ago? Here it is…

Gas station bathrooms
I cover in graffiti
with your phone number

SGB:How many haiku have you written over the past three years? Do you constantly find yourself counting syllables?

RM: I’m counting syllables all the time. I dream in 5/7/5. I’ve written four books of monster themed haiku, each with about 350 poems. So that’s 1,400. I tweet about 3 haiku a day, and have been doing that for almost two years. That puts me to about 3,500 haiku. That’s a lot of haiku. Hopefully one of them is a keeper.

SGB:Film tri-fecta question: What’s your favorite zombie film? Vampire film? Werewolf film?

RM: I usually say Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead for my favorite zombie film, but I’ve been leaning a bit more toward his Night Of The Living Dead lately. My favorite Vampire film is Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. My favorite werewolf film is Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers.

SGB: What’s next? More haiku? Or are we going to see zombie verse in iambic pentameter? (To rot or not to rot, that is the question.)

RM: I’m trying to stay away from mixing monsters and other poetry forms. Something about wicked witch limericks sounds like a tougher sell than haiku. My next book, Dawn Of Zombie Haiku, comes out this summer and I am really excited for people to read it. It’s written from the perspective of a young girl keeping a haiku journal during a zombie outbreak. Ever since the first book, I have wanted to write another zombie story in haiku. It took me a while to find a story that I both loved and felt would stand out as original in the growing cannon of zombie fiction. It was fun to write.

SGB:Where can people find you on the Internet to learn more about you and your books?

RM: People can find more info about me at www.ryanmecum.com and they can be fed a few daily haiku via my Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/mecumhaiku.

SGB:Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Ryan. Good luck with the new book and with all of your future endeavors!

RM: Thanks S.G.! And thanks for creating Andy Warner. He’s a friend of mine.

Zombie Haiku Showdown Contest

June 11th, 2010

I’ll be having an interview coming up on a website called The Authors Speak, which has some great interviews with authors such as Mary Roach, Christopher Moore, and Douglas Clegg, among others.

In preparation for the interview, The Authors Speak is hosting a Zombie Haiku Contest, where you can win a signed copy of Breathers and some Zombies Are People Too swag.

For those who are unfamiliar with haiku, or what it has to do with Breathers, haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that consists of 17 syllables or, apparently, moras, which are units of sound that determine syllable weight. And I’m getting this off of Wikipedia, so don’t yell at me if I’m wrong. Yell at somebody else.

Why is this relevant to zombies? In Breathers, Andy writes haiku that are zombie related, such as this one:

shattered life dangles
a severed voice screams in grief
I’m rotting inside

He also wrote several other haiku that didn’t make it into the final version:

Pine-Sol bubble baths
mask the stench of rotting flesh
I smell like Christmas

Of course, your haiku doesn’t have to be about sentient zombies. It can be from the stereotypical viewpoint with zombies as relentless, flesh eating monsters:

eaten by zombies
last thought is wondering if
I taste like chicken

Or take another perspective. Have fun with it. Just follow the directions on the web site and good luck!

Zombie Haiku #3

February 15th, 2009

It’s true that zombies don’t tend to appreciate Breather food the way we did when we were alive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss sitting down to a nice home cooked meal or enjoying a fresh, oven-baked cinnamon roll.  Problem is, everything tends to taste bland, so we mostly just eat out of habit.

While we’re on the subject of food, here are a couple of haikus I wrote:

recipe for the undead
     reanimate flesh
     simmer organs in decay
     formaldehyde stew

snap, crackle, pop
     maggots feast on fat
     subcutaneous buffet
     sounds like rice krispies

De-Evolution (Zombie Haiku #2)

December 4th, 2008

putrefaction refers to the breaking down and liquefaction of tissues by bacteria in the human body.  unembalmed zombies will eventually dissolve, collapsing and sinking in upon themselves, gradually seeping out on to the ground.

trust me.  it’s not a pretty sight.

the digestive organs and lungs disintegrate first, with the brain following close behind.  the bacteria that exist in the mouth chew through the palate.  as most zombies know, the brain is soft and easy to eat, so it liquefies quickly and bubbles out the ears and mouth.

for unembalmed zombies, internal organs are still intact and can be identified until about six weeks after reanimation.  after that, the internal organs turn to chicken soup.

   brains bubble out nose
   organs turn to chicken soup
   former self dissolves

Zombie Haiku

November 21st, 2008

helen, the group moderator at the local chapter of undead anonymous, suggests that each of us find some creative way to deal with our feelings of hopelessness, an artistic therapy to cope with the challenges of being one of the undead.  the idea is to create something beautiful that transcends our less-than-glamorous existence.

when i was among the living, i used to pen an occasional haiku.  nothing ground breaking.  i never submitted to any poetry journals or read my stuff aloud at an open mic down at mr. toot’s in capitola.  i just did it for me.  i never even let rachel read my haikus.  i wasn’t ashamed.  it was just personal.  something to give the right side of my brain some exercise.

i don’t know if it matters anymore, considering that my brain is gradually liquefying, but old habits don’t die even when you do.

shattered life dangles
a severed voice screams in grief
i’m rotting inside