Tommy Pico’s New Book Confronts American Indian Stereotypes

Tommy Pico photographed by Niqui Carter

‘Nature Poem’ is on sale today

Few people capture New York, queerness, and the artful use of hashtags in a poem quite like Tommy Pico. The Beyoncé-loving, Brooklyn, New York-based writer who caught the attention of the literary world with his debut work, IRL, is back with his second long-form piece, titled Nature Poem

Pico writes from the perspective of Teebs, an American Indian (or NDN) character who is trying to reconcile his past with his present. Through witty prose, we watch Teebs navigate the dating game in New York City, call out contemporary political issues, and ponder his own life and choices. Whether he's on the rooftop of the Wythe Hotel or on the subway, he is ever-observant and aware of his surroundings, searching for meaning in seemingly unimportant moments. 

Here, we chat with Pico about the process of creating his second book, how he views his heritage, and his thoughts on camping. 

What has Teebs been up to since IRL? How has he changed?
Teebs has definitely calmed down a little. He’s still got heavy gay slut vibes, but now it seems more out of enjoyment than mania. One of the main differences is that IRL is overtly self-reflective—it literally starts out with “I”—and is self-centered as a cyclone. It is a cyclone. Nature Poem is more outwardly reflective, contemplative even. Teebs has found the art remedy he was looking for in IRL, identifies as a poet, and takes on the institution of nature poetry.

The first few pages of the book discuss the narrator's hesitation about writing anything resembling a "nature poem." Where do you think the fear stems from? 
The book was kind of an attempt to understand, confront, and reconcile stereotypical ways in which American Indian people have been described in popular culture. Oftentimes we’re depicted as being “noble savages,” [being at] one with nature and all that shit. It’s dangerous to me because then we become features of the landscape, not human beings, things to be cleared and removed. I wanted to write against these stereotypes in part to imbue nuance and humor and humanity back into people from whom it has been stolen from, historically.

How has your view of nature evolved from when you first started writing the book? 
It has absolutely not evolved at all—you will not catch me camping for nothin’.

Do you feel like you've developed a different view of your heritage from writing Nature Poem
I think the main character starts off the book exasperated at the ways in which others, in his view, have internalized certain “stereotypical” ideas of American Indian-ness. My view at the outset was similar, and it was through writing the book that I have learned to respect, love, and appreciate the variety of ways in which indigenous people identify their indigeneity. So much was stolen from us—I can’t judge what another NDN person uses to address that yawning absence.    

We talked about this when I interviewed you about IRL, but the prose itself is also very visually appealing, thanks to things like line breaks. How did you go about "designing" different scenes in Nature Poem
It is really manicured! But manicured so differently than IRL. That book breaks all the time, and a quick succession of line breaks creates a kind of anticipation. I wanted Nature Poem to be a little more legato, to almost be prose, and every now and then have those little record skips that remind you you’re reading a poem. A line break can also break open the word or phrase that rests on it, and I wanted to keep at least some of that buoyancy.   

Has your creative process changed since your last book? 
I think my creative process stays the same but the writing process changes with each project. IRL was way more of a scorched earth situation. I would write incessantly and once or twice a week cut almost everything. Nature Poem was written to be a zine initially, one that I only sent to a few friends, so the process was way less punishing. In both cases, though, I wrote until I figured out what I was making. I’m working on a project right now that has way more of a plotted arc and is way more obsessively structured. 

Anything else you'd like to add about Nature Poem
Buy it! Make out with me! Let’s share an ice cream sandwich at the park by the water!

Nature Poem is available on May 9. Order your copy here

Nature Poem by Tommy Pico

Screenshots via YouTube

This is not the first time Swift has been called out for this

Taylor Swift is being accused yet again of copying Beyoncé. This time, the Beyhive is seeing striking similarities between Swift's new "You Need To Calm Down" music video and Bey's "Party" video from 2011.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Showtime

'On Becoming a God In Central Florida' also stars Beth Ditto

Kirsten Dunst, like many people on my Facebook feed, wants you to hear about her new super-exciting entrepreneurship opportunity—she's definitely not going to mention it's a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme though.

Keep reading... Show less
Photos by Jack Taylor, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

She takes defending her country seriously

Start your morning off right by watching Michelle Obama whip a ball straight at Harry Styles', well, balls. During a game of dodgeball between the former FLOTUS and The Late Late Show host James Corden and their respective teams, the throw that decided the entire match is one you'll want to watch over and over (and over) again.

When Obama challenged Corden to a U.S.A. versus U.K. match, using dodgeball to determine which home country was better, I already knew she was going to win. She's Michelle Obama. It was just as easy for her to convince everyone she'd win before grabbing a ball as it was to select her all-star crew; Obama shares in the clip, "You would not believe how easy it was to get people to do this. All I had to say was, you're gonna throw a ball at James Corden." I'd say yes! Her six-person team is made up of actors Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Waithe, and Kate Hudson.

Corden had a less easy time grabbing a team (he only has five people, including himself), made up of Harry Styles, Benedict Cumberbatch, Samwell Tarly John Bradley, and Reggie Watts. Styles suggests no one would have actually joined up with Corden had the late-night host not stalked them, joking that he called, texted, and even showed up at "your house, your work, your hairdresser, your pilates class, and your shower."

Even without the magic of jump cuts, the game flies by in a flash. Corden's entire team is wiped out in no time, leaving Styles alone to fight for his home country. The former One Direction band member had no chance once Obama had him in her crosshairs, and with one swift toss directed at Styles' crotch, Corden's team's fate is sealed forever.

Watch the full video below, and if you're just here for that winning blow, skip ahead to 6:46.

Team USA v. Team UK - Dodgeball w/ Michelle Obama, Harry Styles & More - #LateLateLondon

Asset 7
Photo Courtesy of Transthetics

Get to know Transthetics, a truly transformative company that didn't set out to change the world

Alex is not your usual entrepreneur. The plain-spoken, self-described "...boring heterosexual guy..." just wants to have vanilla sex and relationships with women. He started Transthetics, penile prosthetics for transmasculine people, to serve this purpose. While Alex may be working on things that are transformative for individuals, he didn't start his company to "change the world" or be internationally recognized in the way many CEOs strive for. He doesn't even choose to use his surname in any product advertising, press, or fundraising materials. That might not seem so unusual, considering we live in a world that is so hostile to deviation from the gender norms—but we also live in a world of "rock star"-led start-ups, and anonymity is quite unusual there.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Give them a round of applause!

At the MTV Movie and TV awards last night, Noah Centineo and Lana Condor won an award for "Best Kiss" for their, erm, performance in To All The Boys I've Loved Before. And, during their acceptance speech, Centineo gave a callout to Condor's lips.

Keep reading... Show less