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Distributed for Autumn House Press

The Gardens of Our Childhoods

Poems considering self, masculinity, and culture through the spectacle of professional wrestling.

In this stunning debut, John Belk looks at the world of professional wrestling to excavate the real within the artificial and explore the projections we create, run from, and delight in. In The Gardens of Our Childhoods, the distance between spectacle and reality blurs.
Belk uses the spectacle of wrestling to stare deeply into American culture and masculinity, parsing the intersecting threads of patriarchy and gender, and unpacking identity formation and performance. As Belk pries into toxic masculinities, he leaves space also for tenderness, queerness, and resistance to normative structures, opening the potential for love and admiration. Populated by classic and contemporary wrestlers like André the Giant, Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, Bruno Sammartino, Marcus “Buff” Bagwell, and more, this book is ultimately about the constant deconstruction and reconstruction of our identities that smudge fiction and reality. Like wrestlers in their operatic and winding storylines, we learn how to project and inhabit identities while growing into and fighting against the scripts we write for ourselves and those that are imposed on us.
The Gardens of Our Childhoods is the winner of Autumn House Press’s Rising Writer Prize in Poetry.

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Table of Contents

Trash 11
Perry Saturn makes ends meet after a failed tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling 13
The Death of Owen Hart 15
Buff Bagwell’s Mother 16
incantation [Fraxinus ornus] 17
Perry Saturn fell in love with a mop 18
The Cauliflower Alley Club 19
Stasiak & Sammartino 20
Stasiak & Sammartino II 21
The Gardens of Our Childhoods 22
Marcus Bagwell’s Mother 23
letterlocking 27
Angle of Regard 28
a business without heart or conscience 30
Hermeneutics 31
bar trivia: good things have to happen to someone 32
Wrestlemania XVI & suicide 33
Stonecold Steve Austin’s Mother 34
definition of the continental shelf 35
The Undertaker’s Rebel Outlaw Phase 36
dead letter office 37
bar trivia: no wrestler has ever used an Annie Lennox song as entry music 38
Jimmy Snuka’s Mother 39
John Cena’s Spinner Belt 40
poem about a dying mall 41
Perry Saturn at a bed & breakfast in Katonah, Connecticut before a January sunrise 42
My love wants a chicken named Eleanor of Aquitaine 43
Razor Ramon 44
Blackjack Mulligan’s Mother 45
The time Vince McMahon tore both his quadriceps while sliding angrily 47
shipletters 48
Madison Square 49
Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s Mother 50
The Finger Poke of Doom 51
one two skip a few a hundred 52
bar trivia: Venice has been sinking for years 53
Perry Saturn wonders 54
Good Endings 55
Ultimate Warrior’s Mother 56
fanletters 58


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