The Perfect Bastard: Poems

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An innovative poetic interrogation of wrestling, queerness, and staying true to oneself

Quinn Carver Johnson's debut collection, The Perfect Bastard, follows its titular protagonist, a nonbinary and queer professional wrestler, as they travel across Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, working for a booker known as the Puppeteer. Inspired by their idol Adrian Street, the Perfect Bastard strives to positively represent queerness and resist the Puppeteer's stereotypical and demeaning kayfabe. In the ring, they face off against the likes of champion Jack Holiday and the First Crusher, but their most important battles, against the Puppeteer, take place behind the scenes. They must choose between person and persona, authenticity and humiliating hype, if they want to succeed in the industry.

When offered success on the grandest scale--the championship belt--in exchange for mocking their own queerness, the Perfect Bastard questions their path: Will they betray their identity to achieve their dream, or will they walk away from the world of professional wrestling--a world that refuses to make a genuine, healthy space for them?

About the Author

QUINN CARVER JOHNSON (they/them) was the editor-in-chief of the Aonian, Hendrix College's literary magazine. Their work has appeared in Rappahannock Review, Right Hand Pointing, Cimmaron Review, Red Earth Review, and elsewhere. Carver Johnson currently lives in Tulsa and hosts the People's Poetry reading series.


"The Perfect Bastard is an ambitious, revelatory, and exciting debut. These poems are for readers searching for portrayals not only of queerness and the Midwest but also of queer joy, queer sports, and, ultimately, a celebration of camp." --Taneum Bambrick, author of Intimacies, Received

Publisher: Curbstone Press
Pub date: September 15, 2023
120 pages
Format: Paperback