cover image IRL


Tommy Pico. Birds LLC (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-9914298-6-8

Pico’s brilliant, funny, and musical book-length debut finds his charming alter ego, Teebs, navigating the joys and difficulties of being a queer hipster “NDN” transplant to New York City from a California reservation. Teebs’s lines channel a rush of Internet slang and emoticons, run-on ramblings and sentence fragments, and poppy lyrical bursts (“All of these Adams,/ all of these Bens n them/ Benz and Rolls Royce’s”). He has a laundry list of beaux with nicknames such as Big-Arms-Ugly-Face and Pompadour, but his true beloved is an artist named Muse, “whose/ even slight squint bursts/ me into high July.” Teebs agonizes over Muse’s aloof behavior, quandaries about text messages, and the resigned admission that “Museless, I’m useless.” He is ambivalent about social media, denouncing the maudlin self-pitying Facebook posts of friends while praising his own cleverness: “I post a pic of Pangea/ on Insta for #tbt.” Though the poem exudes a summertime party atmosphere, Teebs calls out acts of homophobia as well as atrocities committed against NDNs, from their forced conversion by Spanish colonizers to the microaggressions of corporate cultural appropriation. He also invokes Gertrude Stein and Sherman Alexie as naturally as he does Beyoncé. Pico’s skillful rendering of Teebs’s coming-of-age attempts to create a cohesive identity out of his many selves proves to be entertaining, enlightening, and utterly relatable in the age of the smartphone. (Sept.)