In the second book of his “Teebs Cycle,” award-winning poet Tommy Pico explores his reluctance — as a city-dwelling, Indigenous writer — to craft a “nature poem.”
The book-length poem follows its narrator, Teebs, on his journey of writing just that. Combining deft lyricism with the text-messaging vernacular from his preceding volume, IRL, Pico spills Teebs onto the page in all his messy humanity and linguistic complexity. The stylistic mixture feels restless but authoritative, and it speaks to Teebs’s refusal to contain himself within the confining grammatical structure of a colonial language and poetic medium. While capital-N “Nature” may be a theme throughout, Pico examines human nature in depth. He balances discussions of Beyoncé and the dating scene in N.Y.C. with explorations of racism, misogyny, and his particular experience of indigeneity.
Not all the pages of this book are comfortable. In fact, most of them aren’t — these stanzas have teeth. They’re brash and vulnerable and look you in the eye while they tell you the truth. They reserve the right to flow between laugh-out-loud funny and staggeringly serious without the respite of a line break. The book is a highly self-aware exploration of identity, culture, and the world in which we all strive to survive. In the midst of his protestations that he feels unable, and more specifically, unwilling, to write a nature poem, Pico crafts a book that examines humanity and the natural world while declaring his place within them both.