Tommy Pico is a Brooklyn-based award-winning poet originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation. He is the author of the books IRL (Birds, LLC, 2016), Nature Poem (Tin House Books, 2017), Junk (forthcoming 2018 from Tin House Books), the zine series Hey, Teebs and the chapbook app absentMINDR (VerbalVisual 2014). He also co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub. We chat here about his writing process, experience with publishing, and advice for an aspiring poet.
Tell us about your upcoming book Junk coming out in May 2018 from Tin House.
Junk is a gassy break-up poem in couplets. There’s not really much punctuation because I wanted to give it the sense that ideas about junk, the different definitions and contexts, are ramming into each other. Each line is ~4.5 inches long, so every page looks the exact same, despite being made up of a lot of discreet, thorny, loud moments. Kind of like a junk drawer. A mass of disparate things that gains a uniformity by its accumulation. Also dicks.
In an interview for Vol. 1 Brooklyn, you explain how one book inspires the next. Do you have any rituals you use to find inspiration to start the process?
Writing is the ritual. It’s unglamorous, stupid, and rude. I hate it but it’s the most consistent commitment I’ve been able to adhere to. While a persona of mine sort of becomes a facet of the writing, I’m really writing about the world and not necessarily about myself. There is so much world out there, so I feel like I could keep writing forever.
How has the publishing experience been for you? I feel like it can be hard to know whether to publish independently or seek a publisher.
I self-published zines and on tumblr and stuff like that for years and years before I ever had a manuscript or wrote IRL (my first book). Because I came up in punk and zines, making the thing and putting it out myself has always been the goal. I never expected to be “published” in a major way, so everything I’ve worked out with Birds LLC and Tin House has been pure gravy.
When did you start your podcast, Food 4 Thot? How did the four of you meet and decide to come together?
We met at the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop 2016. We’re all New York writers, all fairly indecent, are plugged into all manner of pop-culture, and also read and think deeply. Our conversations that week at the workshop spanned all quadrants of levity, depth, filth, fuckery, and stoned midnight musings on the inner workings of the mind or whatever. Our little band continued to get together once we returned to the city and I was like, let’s get on mic. I never imagined so many other people would respond the way that they have but I guess that means I have good taste?
If you could tell an aspiring poet one thing what would it be?
Write every day. Every single dumb damn day. If you have an excuse not to, you’re going to keep making them. It doesn’t have to be all day or even for 20 minutes. Start with five. You can do five. Oh, and don’t let your pen stop. You have all the time in the world to self-censor and second guess. Let the writing time be writing time.
Do you have a favorite word and/or sound?
I love the words “diphthong,” “marionberry,” and “Ali Larter’s barter for sourdough starter stars & garters farm barn.” Not just a regular farm. A farm barn.
More about Tommy Pico:
Astrology Sign: Sagittarius
Favorite Book: There’s a Monster at the End of This Book
Favorite Poem: I do this Poetry Mixtape tinyletter every month, which helps me keep abreast of poets I’ve yet to read or really want to read and my latest personal discovery is this poet Talin Tahajian. Favorite all-time poet would probably have to be AR Ammons and June Jordan.
Favorite Food: Pizza, all manner of pizza, 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
Best spot in NYC to feel inspired: The beach, hands down. Salty, insistent, and a breeze.
What’s one thing that that no one (or very few people) know about you?: I don’t like cheese :-/
For more information about Tommy Pico please visit heyteebs.tumblr.com.
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