Junk - Tommy Pico

Staff Pick

Pico’s book-length poem is composed in flexible, impeccably crafted couplets—but look closer and the orderliness dissolves. Sentences start and start and don’t come to a full stop. There are opening capitals but no periods (with one exception:  “Refresh.//Refresh. Refresh.”). The lines roll into and out of each other with the regularity and wildness of waves. This brilliant structure allows the poet to interweave myriad themes and literary strategies. At one level, the poem is a deft stand-up rant. Telling himself to “turn everything into a punchline—the grief is loud but/the laffs are louder,” Pico lets loose with powerful zingers that qualify the laughs and hone the grief. As an earthy glimpse of “Love in the time of/ climate change,” the poem hits any number of gay nightspots, karaoke bars, and bedrooms and the lovers’ banter is a tour de force of voices and tones. These strands of the poem are largely the work of “Teebs the bratty Diva, my alter ego.” Pico uses Teebs’s “piss & vinegar & libido & punchlines” to defer the more difficult confrontation with what angers and frightens him about America: that ”slavery,/theft, and genocide are its founding institutions.” That America is “all action no memory.” Growing up on “the rez America’s first POW camps,” Pico realized his “Junk situation It’s how I’m seen, felt,/ and fought.” Something not quite discarded, not quite kept (like the clichéd image of the Native warrior, “weary, slumped/over the broken horse, spear sliding into the dry grass”), junk “isn’t//garbage It’s not outlived its purpose Junk awaits its next life.” How to reach that next life? “Resisting death for// generations, I want to make the opposite of death,” Pico says. He’s passionate and spirited and brave. But he does not seem optimistic.

Junk By Tommy Pico Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941040973
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Tin House Books - May 8th, 2018