Monsters, Zombies + Addicts: Poems
Author: Gwendolyn Zepeda
Publisher: Arte Publico
Review copy: Final copy from publisher
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: "I was scared of a thing that might have happened. In daytime I'm sure it never did. / At night, I don't trust daylit memories or instincts. In nightmares, like filmstrips, the feared thing occurs." In her second poetry collection, monsters real and imagined chase Houston Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Zepeda through late nights when she can t sleep. Ghosts routinely visit in the early morning hours, but in spite of her fears, she dares to believe that she has escaped the devils that once followed her.
This collection of 62 narrative poems contains witty observations about the rituals of contemporary life. In "Cocktail Hours", she wonders, "What if all my nights were Christmas lights on patios with tinkling drinks and fun conversations." And in "Recipe for Fun," Zepeda offers a ten-point guide to soothing away life's frustrations, including a suggestion to get some peace by giving "everyone in your house pizza, cat food or video games."
Musings on family, remembrances of childhood games and encounters with strangers (and ants!) fill this clever, thought-provoking collection in which Zepeda dares to express her individuality. She knows that she is different, "Maybe I am a boy in drag. Especially here, where I don't feel like everybody else." She doesn't follow others blindly or do what society expects of her. Readers will appreciate this second poetry collection, which is deeply personal yet universal in its hopes and fears.
Review: Since I usually review children's and young adult titles, I want to make it clear that this is an adult collection. It's marketed adult and is written from an adult perspective. Having the word zombies on the cover may still get the attention of a few YA readers or adult readers that don't usually venture into poetry. The word zombies is what caught my attention. The title also lets you know that this is a darker poetry collection. Zepeda delves into the creepy and disturbing areas of life. There is a smattering of humor here and there, but on the whole, these poems are unsettling and are definitely not sweet and pretty ditties. These poems were unlike any other collection I have dipped into before. The poems expressed some strong emotions and called to my own.
Whether the topics were drinking too much, anxiety attacks, a brother's anger, devils, maggots or nightmares, Zepeda's poems are probing into scary aspects of life and into the dark places of the mind. Real or imaginary, the effect is the same. Hansel and Gretel has always been a disturbing story, but under Zepeda's pen, it becomes even more chilling.
The book is organized in four sections: Addicts and Obsessions, Monsters and Warriors, Zombies and the Bitten and Animals and Nature. Animals and Nature had several of my favorites and were more likely to be amusing. One that I really liked was "Recipe for Fun" mentioned above in the summary. Feeding others then hiding in the bathroom with a salt scrub sounds appealing to me. It made me want to write my own recipe for fun too.
It is a poetry collection, but a few of the pieces appear to be narrative essays. Even when they don't have the tradition form of a poem though, all of the selections are filled with rich imagery capable of calling up emotions - and strong emotions at that.
While I don't often venture into the realm of the creepy, I'm glad that I had the chance to walk through the twisted paths found here. -- Cover image and summary via Goodreads
Interview with Gwendolyn Zepeda via WordMothers
"Gwendolyn Zepeda Explains Her Life to Strangers"