Poetry and Zombies

I watch very little television but did see an episode of a show called Walking Dead recently. I like apocalyptic type shows but this one was a bit much for me and I didn’t finish it. Too many zombies shot in the head with graphic results. It confused me for one thing. If zombies are dead, why do they still bleed so colorfully, and splatter so much?

Last week I had a discussion with some writers about the emotion in our work. One woman had written a poem that she felt might be too powerful for the rest of us to understand. Another said that even if a reader didn’t understand the words, people react to the underlying emotion in a story or poem. Which makes the poem personal for that person, even if they read into it a different message than another reader, or even the author, gets from the same piece. It’s similar to modern art that has different meanings to different viewers.

How does that relate to bleeding zombies? Well, I got to thinking that every generation seems to have its version of the apocalypse. I remember as a child it was the Cuban missile crisis and the atom bomb. People had bomb shelters in their basements. I remember a time when it was the swine flu, sarin gas, mutant viruses, and so on. It’s as if each age needs something that is out of our control, that scares us, that makes us feel the need to prepare. Right now it’s a hurricane that’s making me think about super storms and how nature is changing and how I want to make sure my Bug Out Bag is stocked.

But, as with writing, it’s not the virus or the zombie that we are afraid of. It’s those underlying emotions. Fear of no control, of not being able to protect our family, of being exposed. Each apocalyptic theme dips right down into those deep feelings. And good writing does the same thing. It’s not the plot carrying the story, it’s all those underlying emotions that suck a reader in and keep them turning pages. Whether that emotion is fear, laughter, or anger. If we, as writers, can bravely dip into our own fears in order to pull them out and place them down on paper, we can touch our readers. Well, that’s not a profound statement. All writers know it. I’ve just been thinking about it since that show creeped me out and since I was told I might not get something powerful. It makes me want to face all emotion in order to impact a reader.

So while I may not understand the words (and might be a tad insulted when someone points that out), I definitely will react to honest emotions underlying the words, whether that’s in a song or a poem or a novel…or a zombie television show.

And by the way, my emergency pack is packed.


One thought on “Poetry and Zombies

  1. I see what you mean about honest emotions coming through in our work if we dig down deep as writers and access what we feel. I’m still reeling though, from a realization I made a while back: Some readers make an effort (conscious or not) to avoid the deeper emotions, and some just can’t feel an emotion while reading, that they aren’t already feeling at the moment .

    I know the answer for a writer is to write for readers who don’t shy away and those who are able to be touched by underlying emotion, but I can’t unring this bell that, I guess for personal reasons, ties me in a knot sometimes and creeps into my work. I fight the urge to over explain (which is useless) all the time.

    As for scary stories, I got an idea for one I’d been trying to get ready for Halloween on the blog, but I see now that it isn’t going to be on time. I’m sure no one cares much about it now anyway after the real life scares we’ve had these past few days. Anyway, it’s no where near as scary as zombies 🙂 , if it’s scary at all. And I hope you didn’t start The Walking Dead with this season’s first episode :O . The producers were trying to please teenage boys who were tired of all the talking and cerebral plot points in past seasons. I had to avert my own eyes way, way more than usual. I don’t get the deal with the dead blood splattering either, but I love how someone in that universe just realized that zombies die of starvation. It just takes them waaay longer because they’re ‘dead.’ As a writer, I wished I’d written that.


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