Planet of the Zombie Zonnets: Seasons 1 & 2 by Juan Manuel Perez
Hungry Buzzard Press (August 31, 2021)
76 pages; $10.84 digital
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Juan Manuel Pérez, a Mexican-American poet of indigenous descent. He is the 2021 Horror Authors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. He is also the recipient of the Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant (2021) and the Poet Laureate for Corpus Christi, Texas (2019-2020). His newest collection is Planet of the Zombie Zonnets: Seasons 1 & 2.
Planet of the Zombie Zonnets: Seasons 1 & 2 is a series of poems based on survival in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with zombies. It’s not an original idea, to be sure, but Perez tries to imbue the plot with new life by philosophizing or moralizing the events that happen during this time. For example, the poem “Perfect” begins:
In any world, zombies are perfection
They don’t attack each other just because
They don’t seem to mind sharing all their food
They don’t cheat each other in anything
They don’t fornicate and cause divisions
They don’t discriminate one single bit
While this lacks the general imagery or metaphorical language that one would expect from poetry, there is something to be said for using horror tropes, especially zombies, to make socio-political statements, and Perez very clearly writes in that tradition.
That style of writing, though, is not enough to sustain a full-length collection. Perez clearly falls back on favorite poetic techniques and stylings in this book; it’s clear he’s a big fan of lists in his poems, stanzaic anaphora, etc. These are all respectable techniques when used well, but Perez leans upon them so heavily they read as formulaic and unoriginal when layered against each other. On top of that, many of the poems repeat familiar and tired zombie clichés without adding anything new or interesting to them.
Overall, Planet of the Zombie Zonnets: Seasons 1 & 2 is an uneven mélange of zombie themed poems. Some of the poems are clever, but only that. Some of them have a deeper resonance with biting social commentary. Some seem like they’re there to add to the page length. Most of the poems struggle to rise above their abstractions and cliché images to achieve something new or unique in zombie poetry, which makes for a sluggish read. For die hard horror poetry fans and collectors, this book might have some appeal. But most horror readers will not miss much by passing on this book.