Title: Nature Poem
Author: Tommy Pico
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Sub Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Summary: 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.
What I Liked: This book felt like a book of poetry for people who say they don’t like poetry or don’t understand it. By using modern language and “text” speak like ‘yr’ and bc’ Pico makes it clear that this is a poem written for people living in the current time while still managing to pay tribute to his ancestors. His ability to move from humor to sadness to outrage in a single page is astounding and there were several times I found myself stopping to take in what I had just read.
What I Didn’t Like: I struggle with understanding poetry so my issue with this book is related to my own struggles with the content. At times I couldn’t understand if the poem I was reading was separate from the long poem or if it was supposed to all be part of a single poem. But this is a comment on my own lack of comprehension more than the book.
Who Should Read It: If you hear the word poetry and only think of dead white people, this would be a great book to pick up and see what young, modern poets are writing.
Review Wrap Up: This was my first time reading Pico’s poetry but it won’t be the last. I liked that he talked about serious issues like Indigenous rights and colonialism with more light-hearted things like music and where he’s eating that night. I don’t seek out poetry very often but I’m glad I picked this book up. I’d recommend this poem, especially for people who haven’t read a poem since they attended school.
Favorite Quote: “How do statues become more galvanizing than refugees?”
“It seems foolish to discuss nature w/o talking about endemic poverty which seems foolish to discuss w/o talking about corporations given human agency which seems foolish to discuss w/o talking about colonialism which seems foolish to discuss w/o talking about misogyny”