A book-length poem about how an American Indian writer can’t bring himself to write about nature, but is forced to reckon with colonial-white stereotypes, manifest destiny, and his own identity as an young, queer, urban-dwelling poet.
A Best Book of the Year at BuzzFeed, Interview, and more.
Nature Poem follows Teebs—a young, queer, American Indian (or NDN) poet—who can’t bring himself to write a nature poem. For the reservation-born, urban-dwelling hipster, the exercise feels stereotypical, reductive, and boring. He hates nature. He prefers city lights to the night sky. He’d slap a tree across the face. He’d rather write a mountain of hashtag punchlines about death and give head in a pizza-parlor bathroom; he’d rather write odes to Aretha Franklin and Hole. While he’s adamant—bratty, even—about his distaste for the word “natural,” over the course of the book we see him confronting the assimilationist, historical, colonial-white ideas that collude NDN people with nature. The closer his people were identified with the “natural world,” he figures, the easier it was to mow them down like the underbrush. But Teebs gradually learns how to interpret constellations through his own lens, along with human nature, sexuality, language, music, and Twitter. Even while he reckons with manifest destiny and genocide and centuries of disenfranchisement, he learns how to have faith in his own voice.
Pico (IRL) centers his second book-length poem on the trap of conforming to identity stereotypes as he ponders his reluctance to write about nature as a Native American. This is "fodder for the noble savage/ narrative," he writes as ignorant people ask, "do I feel more connected to nature/ bc I'm NDN." Other similarly problematic expectations are wryly discussed: "An NDN poem must reference alcoholism, like// I started drinking again after Mike Brown and Sandra Bland and Charleston/ I felt so underwater it made no sense to keep dry." As an extension of this dilemma, Pico poses questions about what is natural human behavior: Is it natural for a football player to assault his girlfriend? Is colonialism natural? What about the feeling one gets while listening to Beyonc 's "Mine"? Pico's alter-ego "Teebs" remains in constant motion, leaping from the dentist's office to drag queen karaoke night to the movie theater: "I'm an adult I only let myself have/ candy at the movies/ so I've been going to the movies A LOT." In making the subliminal overt, Pico reclaims power by calling out microaggressions and drawing attention to himself in the face of oppression, "the way the only thing more obvious than your body/ is leaving yr shirt on in the pool." This review has been corrected. A previous version stated that the author is represented by Lauren Smythe of Inkwell, but he is no longer represented by an agent.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Tommy “Teebs” Pico has been the first writer who’s work I ACTUALLY enjoyed. It is a piece that I can easily swallow (bc I’m a pro) and read over..and over..and over again.
I myself am I gay male (23, HMU) that can relate to this literature. In my entire 23 years I have never found a piece of literature so relatable in the LGBTQ, Pop, NDN cultures.
Hey Teebs..MAKE MORE!!
Stunning mix of low and high
An eternal work, great lines, great laughs