Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Aim for the Head

Poetry is associated with a lot of different things like love, death, nature, and sex. But how about zombies? Maybe not the first thing that comes to mind, but why not? When I teach poetry, I always stress to students that poetry can be about anything you want. In my own work, I write about many topics that surprise readers. Giving people the unexpected is often very rewarding, which is what makes the book Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry edited by Rob Sturma such a great read.

I first became aware of this book from my friend Evan Peterson who has a poem in the anthology. I also read the article The New York Times did on the book in January. It intrigued me. I have a great interest in using pop culture in poetry and this seemed like a perfect book for that. I'm also a zombie fan. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are some of my favorite horror films. I'm also a big fan of The Walking Dead on AMC.

Of course, I had my concerns. How do you keep the topic fresh? Will the poems be too similar? Will content be rewarded over craft? These are issues that can happen in any themed anthology. Aim for the Head, however, avoided all of these. With the exception of a few, these poems each hold their own and are fascinating glimpses into everything zombie.

Partly what makes this book work so well is that zombie is used both literally and figuratively. Many of the poems are taking on the voice of zombies or those in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Others use the term zombie to get at much bigger issues and themes. In "Zombie (1994)" by Lindsay Eanet, the subject is the Cranberries song "Zombie." As a teenager of the 90s, I appreciated this greatly. This song also appears in "The Last Hipster" by Brennan Bestwick. This expected take on the topic adds greatly to the overall collection.

These poems are often laugh out loud funny, but others are heartbreaking and thought-provoking. Zombies can be a great way to examine our own fears. Zombies work on so many different levels, which makes them perfect for poetry. The book is just 123 pages, which makes it a quick read, but you'll surely want to return to these poems again and again and eat their brains.

Favorite poems:

"George Romero Never Lied to Us" by Ryk McIntyre
"Fifteen Ways to Stay Alive" by Daphne Gottlieb
"Zombie (1994)" by Lindsay Eanet
"The Thing About Having Just Dropped Acid an Hour Ago When the Zombies Arrive at the House Party" by Mindy Nettifee
"Night of the Living" by Steve Ramirez
"Fuck A Nostradamus" by Jason Bayani

-Stephen (Brains)

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