Back-to-School Zombie Haiku!

Teachers: Have your students zombify a single sentence from a famous source as the first line of a new poem. Or have them zombify their own drafts as a strategy for revision!


My hands are all here; Mind is heedless in its old way.


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —LEO TOLSTOY


The past is the place we are

or are not watched; they do

newness differently now.


“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  —L. P. HARTLEY


It was the great house he had built;

the rain seemed in the kind of place

you like — except at this thought

and here, dancing, the scanty flame

of family.


“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” —EDWARD GEORGE BULWER-LYTTON

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from the Futurist Manifesto — A Zombie Poem

by Zombie f.t.

We will sing of shooting crowds excited
by work, by their pleasure and by our pain; We will
sing of the civility of two girls who ought

to be in school heading toward a flat house
in the safe capitals. We will sing
of pink building fronts, of arsenals

and shipyards smelling of solitary
trees — solitary trees — a straw militia
man hung on sight seen by the treetops

of their smoke; the town; the church;
a patch bridled by this particular breeze;
and code.


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From a Young Age

From walls — the dust impressed
on me nothing. Wood broke and showed
the kudzu that went from their tops

in their daily lives. That is a cotton
bandage that I continue to pass
along to our son. And we need to pass

those lessons on for a patrol to follow.
Because we want our children
under a tree trunk that must have sprouted

and fallen long after little Sammy.


Here’s the…um…original excerpt:
“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
                                                                                               –Melania Trump

A Zombie Norton Anthology

Just added Ralph Waldo to the 19th century anthology. Here’s a zombified excerpt from “The Poet”:


There is no man who does not anticipate
joy and sorrow in the earth, orderly rows,
and lean lunches in that dive. These stand
and wait to render him the fates

they’d fled. But there is amazement
or some excess of phlegm in the gutter.
Somewhere feeble fall the impressions
of the sky on us to make us an old skein.

Night should thrill. The fields
should be so much to an artist that skunk
could report our common sorrows.

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Zombie William Blake!!!

Infant Sorrow

Entirely lucky, my father said.
(Into that night, glitter the young.)
Like a fiend in photons late,

grooving in earth, stretching against dust
and bits, bound and heedless, I cried:
Best to sulk upon the world.


Infant Joy

I have common sorrows. What shall silence call
tyranny? I, happy, am tears — A hurricane
befall thee! Entirely treacherous,
The route; Error dost smile; I sing.

The moment befall thee.

Post-Game Comments: A Zombie Poem

by Zombie Curry

We had the thought. Sprung the huffing
wind. Many blues. It hurts — desperate blues.
I mean, that’s a match. Rage of the names.

It was not orderly what we accomplished,
and it’s not will. Well, got to just take
the empty with the bad.

“We had a great regular season. Did something no team’s done before. Fell short in the last game of the season. It hurts, man. I mean, that’s all I’m really kind of marinating on right now. Just proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. It wasn’t easy what we accomplished, and it’s not an easy pill to swallow what we didn’t accomplish. So got to just take the good with the bad.”

Our Ambition: A Zombie Poem of McDonald’s Corporate Mission

Their stomachs go beyond what tyranny sells.
We’re using spill-off. For lean lunches.
Our sign — Your loneliness. What then?

Sinew. We promote the yellow lines. Wet
ingredients. Two girls who ought to be
in school head toward a different house.

Transparency. Learn here about Food
Sustainability, the sign which warned
the whole thing was unstable. We create

the fat. Encourage a single word,
her eye, his chin. Facilitate hot fuel.
Reward class. Learn not about our people.

Guilty Neighbor. We champion the rest.
Keep something together through Ronald
McDonald House Charities. Commit

to driving our footprint, using
your map. And standing more. Learn now
about the tables to sparkling new worlds.

We are proud of the lovely dark way.
And we’re dedicated to proclaiming
more. Revving alongside our customers.

Building memories of an interior regime.
And then days and nights.


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A Response to the Zombie Poetry Project by Edward Plough

The Source, The Poet, and the Engineer:
A Meditation on Mike Smith and Brandon Nelson’s Zombie Poetry Project


Since Mike Smith and Brandon Nelson launched the Zombie Poetry Project (ZPP), I have found that I have become hopelessly addicted to the site. It isn’t just a fun game of “clicky poem;” creating a Zombie Poem is a journey into intellectual and creative waters that are too murky to be immediately understood by a first time user. Thus the process retains a certain mysterious quality that is enhanced by the site’s fantastical premise: the ZPP is hostile to the submitted text: the submitted text is a helpless victim that is being submitted to a violent and indiscriminate distortion mechanism, just as a human might be mutilated and made into a new, monstrous abomination after a zombie attack. In other words, the ZPP, by its very nature, encourages creative infidelity.

It would be silly to not mention how silly the ZPP is. That said, the silliness has a disarming effect that allows for the stealth passage of subversive, dark content. It is silly to use Donald Trump as a victim text, but distorting Trump’s words (or other established voices such as Dickens, Tate, Shakespeare, the New York Times, and so on) is a bluntly subversive gesture. Of course, the content in the resultant zombie poem (for example, the 6/8/2016 zombie poem, “from Trump University Mission Statement”) has high potential to be provocative and even grim. The silliness in such cases acts as a smokescreen for the zombifier’s less-silly expressive intentions.

The ZPP is a postmodern ontological look at poetry itself. Is a zombie poem a poem? Just because this website calls it a “poem” doesn’t mean it is one. Is my poem more or less “poem-y” than my submitted text? I imagine that if a Zombie version of a poem was so moving and so profound that it attracted the attention and admiration of millions, that it still would never be anthologized or considered “legitimate” (Now, gods, stand up for zombies!). What is additionally fascinating is that it’s never about JUST the zombie poem; the victim text is also given “stage time.” The ZPP has the clear intention of asking the reader to contemplate adaptation faithfulness by providing the victim text alongside the zombie text. The user can, of course, choose the order in which they read the two poems, or if they even want to read both, but most readers will read the victim first, the Zombie Poem second, and will naturally take to the comparative task set before them. But what does the reader hope to gain from reading the victim text? Does a reader hope for a feeling of “orientation” when subsequently approaching the zombie text? What if the victim text is itself disorienting? What if I used Lee Ann Brown’s “Foolproof Loofah” as a victim text?

I find that my zombie poem is an adaptive text that reflects much more on me than it does on the poem’s other collaborators (the victim text, the source poem, the poet, and the software engineer). I settle on a zombified line only when I feel that that line is somehow “like me.” This process leads me to examine my own artistic tastes in a way that I never had before. It’s an interesting self-study, almost like a Rorschach test. Which glop of textual nonsense makes the most sense to me or connects with me in a meaningful way? I’ll click the line, and then I evaluate the zombie line, but what are my criteria? How weird that I’m making a creative judgment and I don’t even really understand what it is that I’m thinking about when finally a line sounds good! It’s also interesting which typical zombie results I tend to automatically discard every time. For example, I personally will always hit the “re-z button” (as I have come to call it) when the phrase “her rag” pops up because I find the results to be vulgar and potentially off-putting to readers. This particular phrase is fascinating, of course, because in the source poem, “Zombie Ride-Along, “her rag” refers to a cloth wash-rag that a girl uses to clean; when zombified, the de-contextualized phrase’s secondary slang connotation typically dominates its primary, innocuous one.

For all of the introspection creating a Zombie Poem invites, it simultaneously poses the intellectual question, “who is the author?” The quick answer is “me,” but I didn’t write any of the Zombie poem’s text. While zombifying, I maintain textual and creative control, and when I deem the zombie poem to be clever enough, I declare to the world that I have authored a zombie poem by clicking the “Submit Post” button, but I didn’t actually write a poem, right? The ZPP’s baffling technology has allowed me to compose a poem without writing one.

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Mission Statement: A Zombie Poem

A small graveyard beckons to teach
you its work. Battle + a search

of cloud touch = a song. Laughter
has great content. Some have

our oceans at your fingertips. Some offer
the road. We combine all three: Smart

country. A dancing hurricane.
A learn-by-showing-dust bit.


from Trump University:

“Our mission is to teach you success. The best courses and programs + an impressive list of been-there, done-that faculty = a really powerful resource for business education and professional development. Some educational resources have great content. Some have a smart and eclectic community of members. Some offer educational experiences you can immediately apply to the real world and yield results. We combine all three: Smart content. A thriving community. A learn by doing approach.”

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3 Rules of Business by Billionaires — A Zombie Poem

1. What else? Don’t take no for our destination.
If you’re happy to sit at a scorpion
and not take the pleased spaces

which call you home and promise the new
mystery of the folding and open road, you’ll be
mending at your desk for the next 20 years.

2. When you make a staccato-thumping
in the stock market the late, sound
thing to do is correct something.

Night never pays off; Neither does
the earth. 3. The mind is to have
space at the ruins of your thought.


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