Sunday, June 14, 2015

Monsters, Zombies and Addicts: Poems - Gwendolyn Zepeda (Arte Publico Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Monsters, Zombies and Addicts: Poems.  Gwendolyn Zepeda.  Arte Publico Press.  Houston, Texas.  2015

Gwendolyn Zepeda tries to convince us that she is a hard-hearted woman as often as she can in this totally charming collection.  There are monsters, zombies and addicts sprinkled throughout Zepeda's Monsters, Zombies and Addicts: Poems.  

But they are never the monsters you'd expect.  You won't see these zombies coming.  And aren't addictions the damnedest things.  Everybody has them but not everyone knows it.

My Superpower Is Leaving

any situation at top speed. And sometimes
leaving makes the people left behind
call you names. They say "Bitch. She thinks she's too
good." But my ears are also heroic and turn the
opposite of supersonic.
Can fold against my head so I don't hear. They
fold down like my heart, which contracts to a
wad of steel.


Zepeda has a great sense of humour and you all know how much we like to laugh here at Today's book of poetry.  Zepeda has some doozies.

But it is not all fun and games.  These observational narrative poems rollick.  Zepeda's zombies muse eloquent about all the big and small things that get us from one day to another.

There are no sacred cows in Zepedaland.


I was baking a cake to take to my mother-in-law's house for
I'd bought raisins in an off-brand box. Opened the box, dumped
it over the batter.
I saw gnat-like creatures in the air. I looked into the box and it was
full of little worms.

I screamed and threw the box onto the floor. Cried because
I really hate worms and 'cause
I'd wanted this cake to
impress my mother-in-law.

He came into the kitchen and yelled, "What the hell?"
He looked in the bowl, said, "That shit won't kill anybody."
He stuck his hand in the batter, scooped out the worms and
chucked them in the trash.

I finished up the cake and watched my in-laws eat it later

I couldn't eat dessert myself, of course. And now
I only buy the raisins people say are full of pesticides.

We got divorced, too.
Mmm, mmm, good.


Zepeda is a Queen of misdirection.  You think she is going to snap your head back with a jab, she's showing jab, jab, jab, and then when you expect it the least, she comes in with a hook out of left field.

This is Zepeda's second collection of poetry and it is mature wit and clever pontification.  Time and again Zepeda attacks an ordinary moment out of an ordinary day and makes that moment excellent. She is able to both expand and compress these moments and ultimately illuminate some deeper truth that was hiding there.

This is a type of magic.  Perhaps she has been bitten by a poetry zombie and is now infected with poetic zombie reasoning.   Monsters, Zombies and Addicts: Poems certainly has a take-no-prisoners approach.

I Eat Crazy People

The rabbit smells the lion's shit and that which it has digested.
Discovers it's had antelope for lunch and
so can't possibly be hungry again.

The rabbit eats clover in the shadow of the lion,
enjoys the way his shade keeps others at bay.

As the rabbit dies,
is eaten,
she takes one bite of the lion in return.
Does she infect him with her spit, maybe?
The possibility makes her smile, right before it's over.


We here at Today's book of poetry thought Gwendolyn Zepeda's Monsters, Zombies and Addicts: Poems was just scary enough to jack up the senses, put us all on the edge of our seats.

Zepeda sounds intensely honest, enough to make you see that she is right about monsters.

Gwendolyn Zepeda

GWENDOLYN ZEPEDA was born in Houston, Texas, in 1971, and attended the University of Texas at Austin. Her works has appeared on numerous websites, and she has written and illustrated her award-winning website,, since 1997. In 2004, Zepeda was awarded the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County’s Individual Artist Grant for literature. Her writing was hailed by EFE newswire as having the “potential to transform Latino literature of recent years and rid it of its bad habits and clichés.” She is currently wrapping up a two-year term as Houston’s first Poet Laureate. Her works include her most recent poetry collection, Monsters, Zombies and Addicts (Arte Público Press, 2015), her debut book of poetry, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners (Arte Público Press, 2013), Level Up / Paso de nivel (Piñata Books, 2012), Better with You Here (Grand Central Publishing, 2012), I Kick the Ball / Pateo el balón (Piñata Books, 2011), Lone Star Legend (Grand Central Publishing, 2010), Sunflowers / Girasoles (Piñata Books, 2009), Houston, We Have a Problema (Grand Central Publishing, 2009), Growing Up with Tamales / Los tamales de Ana (Piñata Books, 2008), and To the Last Man I Slept with and All the Jerks Just Like Him (Arte Público Press, 2004). She continues to live and work in Houston.

- See more at:

Zepeda captures "the isolating loneliness urban life often engenders."
     Booklist on Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners

"With a world-weary yet love-drive voice, the Houston laureate unerringly explores the workplace, relationships, culture and motherhood."
     The Monitor on Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners

Gwendolyn Zepeda
Houston Poet Laureate
reads at the 2014 GIA Conference
video: Grantmakers in the Arts 


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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