Cutting Promos: Pro Wrestling Erasure Poems by Josh Shepard

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Professional wrestling is many things, my favorite among them being a medium in which language itself is a spectacle; where the rhetoric of Truck Month collides with the fervor of Sunday service. Josh Shepard’s erasures work a peculiar kind of magic on the wrestling promo, revealing more of the sport’s bleeding, beautiful heart by repurposing the desires of their speakers as their own, a welcome response to an irresistible call.”

— Colette Arrand, author of Hold Me, Gorilla Monsoon

The second volume in the BRUISER Zines series, Cutting Promos is a collection of pro wrestling erasure poems by the Oklahoma City poet Josh Shepard. Printed and assembled in Baltimore, this limited edition zine collects 26 poems previously published in BRUISER, HAD, The Daily Drunk and many other fine publications.

After being laid off at the onset of the pandemic, Shepard found comfort and inspiration in the glow of professional wrestling and its performers—their violent struggles, fighting spirit, and electric language—and from their speeches and promos that have inspired wrestling fans across the globe he delivers Cutting Promos, a collection of erasures that echoes the personalities, pursuits and perseverance of pro wrestling’s greatest, standing as a testament to life lived during Hard Times and deliverance through them.

BRUISER will celebrate this release on Saturday, February 24 at 7pm with a free reading at The Floating Bookshop in Oklahoma City, featuring the author himself, Nathan Steinman, Nell Johnson and the bruiser-in-chief Mark Wadley. Copies of Cutting Promos and other BRUISER releases will be available for sale.

Growing up, the only heroes for me were the professional wrestlers I’d see once or twice a week on tv. I clung to their promos like poetry. How they told a story, showed vulnerability, riled up a crowd. It was early exposure to the awe-striking power of language. Their words gave us something to believe in, and we still carry them in our hearts whether we like to admit it or not. Josh Shepard’s Cutting Promos takes you back to that time when anything was possible, when you felt cute and sexy and able to break the walls down because you said so. These erasures are bloody and sweaty reminders that these wrestlers and their microphones gave us the confidence to take on the world. And that’s a life lesson that will never go out of style. Cutting Promos is a love letter to wrestling but it’s also a self-powering call to action, that believing in yourself will get you through hard times.”

— Justin Karcher, author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell and editor at Ghost City Review

Shepard’s erasure poems are a piledriver to the heart. For fans of pro-wrestling or not: here you will find careful juxtaposition and devastating enjambments in a gripping new voice that wrenches profundity from braggadocio.”

— LJ Pemberton, author of Still Alive

This is an illuminated manuscript, the beautiful drawings decorating the margins of an already storied pro wrestling history. Josh Shepard’s erasures don’t chip away at the wrestling promos they draw from. Instead, they heighten them, tighten and tune their language until it sings. Shepard saws away the fluff and reveals hidden rhymes, alliterations, images, and stories buried in these speeches. It’s easy to erase the words that don’t matter, it’s much harder to find and save the words that matter so deeply.”

— Quinn Carver Johnson, author of The Perfect Bastard

Preorder your copy of Cutting Promos now.

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