Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vampire Haiku by Ryan Mecu

Long-time readers here at Guys Lit Wire might remember my review of Zombie Haiku back in March. And some of you may have read (or may want to read) my interview with Ryan for the 2009 Summer Blog Blast Tour. Well, let me tell you all a little something: Ryan Mecum has done it again with VAMPIRE HAIKU, combining haiku and story, humor and horror, and adding history, a hint of romance, and social commentary to boot. While the vampires in it may do, this is one book that doesn't suck. Also? This book is as much a survey of American history as it is the story of one vampire through the ages.

The book follows the history of a guy – let's call him William, since that's his name – who is turned into a vampire by a lovely lady vampire named Katherine whilst aboard a ship to the New World (to be specific, The Mayflower – in case you were wondering about those onboard deaths, all is now revealed – also, this makes the book perfect for November, what with Thanksgiving just around the corner):

One the deck at night
as thousands of stars shine down,
I see her, alone.

A married woman,
undeniably stunning;
likes to flirt with me.

Like a siren song,
each night she calls me to her
and I am in love.

In the glassy sea,
she, I, and the moon reflect.
Hers is a bit . . . off.

Katherine bites William, he bites back, and there are many haiku about his lust for blood, as well as Katherine's explanation of the "rules", which include "tanning is bad". Also included? This tidbit:

She explains to me
that wood through my heart will kill.
I don't think that's new.


A quick review of what haiku is - a short Japanese form, usually interpreted in English as a three-line poem with the first and third lines having 5 syllables and the second as having 7 (5-7-5, in other words). Ryan Mecum writes hundreds of them, then arranges them in such a way as to tell a story, move us through history in a linear manner, and provide details about vampire life along the way.

In the process of learning to kill (and yes, I'm still talking about the early blood-spattered pages of the book), Ryan – er, make that "William" – favors us with this description:

Blood tastes like cherries
mixed with a lot of copper
and way too much salt.

Gross. And awesome. And a might bit thought-provoking, if I'm being honest. Early on, Katherine skedaddles, leaving William hoping to find her, a yearning he returns to throughout the book (with occasional sightings of his lady love).

History begins to roll, as it does: the Salem Witch Trial turns out to be vampire-related. In 1774, we learn that William was around for the Boston Tea Party and that he is relieved "the Intolerable Acts/are not about me". William remembers the Alamo fondly as a massive feast:

Some people wonder,
How did Davy Crockett die?
The answer: Screaming.

William recounts horrifying Civil War stories, which indicate how violent and bloody the war was, and brings home the body count – over 600,000 – in a way that catches your attention. He moves on to mess with Emily Dickinson: "She would always say/that she couldn't stop for death,/so I stopped for her." (How much do I love this paraphrase of Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop for Death? SO much! Additional famous people mentioned (directly or by implication) include P.T. Barnum, General Custer, Amelia Earheart, James Dean, the Son of Sam killer; other events include the Chicago fire, the Great Depression, the Vietnam War and State-side Peace Protests, Woodstock, a Kentucky coal mine collapse, the Bicentennial, the Branch Davidian cult standoff in Waco, Texas, and more. There are haiku about the practical realities of vampire life - finding and killing victims, efforts to avoid sunlight, whether one needs airholes in coffins, and more.

Some haiku I especially liked along the way? These, which speak volumes about religious faith, as one might expect when the author was a youth pastor:

A cross is a cross
if that is its intention.
Crossing beams don't count.

A cross only works
if the person holding it
believes it will work.

And how could I not adore the pop culture references about The Count from Sesame Street (happy anniversary, Sesame Street!), Count Chocula, Count Dracula ("On each Halloween/I dress as Count Dracula./I've heard he does, too."), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, Nosferatu, Near Dark, Interview With a Vampire and to Twilight. Oh, what the heck – here are two of the four Twilight haiku, what with New Moon coming out next week and all:

Those were not vampires.
If sunlight makes you sparkle,
you're a unicorn.

. . .

If this were real life,
Ed would have looked at her neck –
bite, dead, burp, credits.

Throughout the book, William searches for Katherine. Will he find her? Is she right to think she's been tracked by a vampire hunter? If so, who might it be?

You can read more about Ryan Mecum and his work at his brand-new website. You can purchase Vampire Haiku at Barnes & Noble and Borders stores (in the humor section, near Zombie Haiku), and at some independent book stores - including the marvelous Powell's Books (who will, like all indies, always happily order you whatever you'd like, btw), as well as from on-line sources.

Recommended for readers who like humor, history, vampires (or zombies, depending on which book we're speaking of) and, oh yeah – fans of poetry (especially haiku).


Lindsey Carmichael said...

I love it! I'm going to start recommending it to customers who are a) male or b) beginning to tell me they're sick of Twilight and its knock-offs.

Anonymous said...

Good call! (ZOMBIE HAIKU was pretty great, too - far more disgusting than VAMPIRE HAIKU in some ways, since Zombies actually eat flesh and guts, whereas vampires "only" drain their victims.)