Junk by Tommy Pico


An NPR Best Book of the Year. From 2018 Whiting Award winner Tommy Pico, Junk is a book-length break-up poem that explores the experience of loss and erasure, both personal and cultural.

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Can you wax poetic about butts and still face the existential dread of the universe? Whoever said poetry was a dry, serious thing has A) never lived a day in their life and B) never read 2018 Whiting Award winner, Tommy Pico. Pico’s JUNK is a book-length breakup poem but also an exploration of “Junk”—everything that falls in the gray area between utility and clutter, consumption and gluttony. JUNK’s also just hella funny. And always, always true: “I want to make the opposite of death… / Ever bought / a McFlurry n shouted YR DEAD INSIDE but yew were pointing a finger at / yrslf and, horrified, yew screamed Ran home but halfway / home yew forgot what yew were doing and bought a pair of / sneaker boots at DSW or just me?


The third book in Tommy Pico’s Teebs trilogy, Junk is a breakup poem in couplets: ice floe and hot lava, a tribute to Janet Jackson and nacho cheese. In the static that follows the loss of a job or an apartment or a boyfriend, what can you grab onto for orientation? The narrator wonders what happens to the sense of self when the illusion of security has been stripped away. And for an indigenous person, how do these lost markers of identity echo larger cultural losses and erasures in a changing political landscape? In part taking its cue from A.R. Ammons’s Garbage, Teebs names this liminal space “Junk,” in the sense that a junk shop is full of old things waiting for their next use; different items that collectively become indistinct. But can there be a comfort outside the anxiety of utility? An appreciation of “being” for the sake of being? And will there be Chili Cheese Fritos?

Junk by Tommy Pico
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