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The Dead Wrestler Elegies
Curbside Splendor Books 2014

These elegies and illustrations by Asian American poet W. Todd Kaneko cover themes of loss, love, regret, redemption, and remorse. Kaneko's poems and illustrations blend Charles Bukowski's raw-boned verse and Randy "Macho Man" Savage's devastating elbow drop to mine the history of professional wrestling and examine complex relationships between fathers and sons.

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Praise for The Dead Wrestler Elegies

"In Todd Kaneko's The Dead Wrestler Elegies, Gorgeous George is forever beautiful, flexing his biceps and preening about the squared circle. Andre the Giant's legendary tales still resound in the empty amphitheaters and armory mess halls. And young men gathered around their television sets on Saturday nights still get a glimpse of the baby-oil-slick theater. Kaneko's poems leap from the top turnbuckle and make the heart pirouette like the choreographed turn off the ropes.  When the lights in the arenas go out, these poems, in conjunction with Kaneko's stunning visual work, honor both these wrestlers and an era. Through Todd Kaneko's fierce but tender elegies, we come to understand that the gods are mortal after all."
— Oliver de la Paz, author of Post Subject: a Fable and Requiem for the Orchard

"Todd Kaneko’s The Dead Wrestler Elegies is some kind of miracle. There’s nothing else like it. The book succeeds as guilty pleasure and love affair, tribute and indictment, myth-making and intervention, a chronicle of obsession and disappointment, and a meditation on everything from gender politics to the points at which we all, eventually, submit. The DWE is all of this, and it’s so damn fun, too. Rarely has a book of poetry (even illustrated poetry) managed to be so profound while being so entertaining. More than a pack of wild horses, more than spray-tanned human biceps confusing themselves for pythons, more than any kind of mania, really, this book is gonna run wild on you."
— Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning
the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer and The Morrow Plots

"This chiseled pantheon of superbly-illustrated poems in Todd Kaneko’s Dead Wrestler Elegies transubstantiates the flesh of babyfaces, heels, champions, and losers to shimmer again within the static halo of late-night TV and nostalgia’s VHS—grapevined between the gaze of a father and son finished by a runaway wife and mother’s over-the-shoulder backbreaker. Sheened with baby oil and juice, these powerful poems explore the constructed and painful nature of masculinity’s glory and gory days, where—“[b]ecause the heart is only as strong as the flesh surrounding it, / the body only as strong as a man can stand it to be”—the body’s currency is a site of both invincibility and vulnerability, transcendence and decay, Kaneko’s lines moonsaulting a muscular parabola between cartoon and icon, kitsch and myth, the timeless cage match between ecstasy and grief."
— Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Dandarians

"From the headlocks of Ed “Strangler” Lewis to the love life of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Dead Wrestler Elegies vividly evokes the greatest legends of professional wrestling.  But these larger-than-life portraits are, more deeply, elegies for a lost family: for a departed mother, for a father who shared his love of wrestling through old VHS tapes.  W. Todd Kaneko makes the wrestling ring an allegory of childhood, of masculinity, desire, and loss.  “At a wrestling match,” Kaneko writes, “we are all young again, fathers and sons.”  It’s a landscape of fantasy and dreams, where “there is no such thing as falling, only belief in flight, ” but also of mortality, where “the statuary becomes an ossuary.”  Kaneko’s spectacular, haunting illustrations are the perfect complement to these bittersweet poems, in which the bruised heart grapples with memory and love: “I pull sorrow into my arms at night, / the way a man pulls another close.”
— Timothy Yu, author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental
and Asian American Poetry Since 1965 and 15 Chinese Silences

 

 

© 2014 W. Todd Kaneko. All Rights Reserved.