Irl Cover Final 2019


Tommy Pico

🌟 Winner of the inaugural Brooklyn Public Library Literary Award

🌟 Winner of the 2018 Whiting Award

🌟 Finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award

IRL is a sweaty, summertime poem composed like a long text message, rooted in the epic tradition of A.R. Ammons, ancient Kumeyaay Bird Songs, and Beyoncé’s visual albums. It follows Teebs, a reservation-born, queer NDN weirdo, trying to figure out his impulses/desires/history in the midst of Brooklyn rooftops, privacy in the age of the Internet, street harassment, suicide, boys boys boys, literature, colonialism, religion, leaving one's 20s, and a love/hate relationship with English. He’s plagued by an indecision, unsure of which obsessions, attractions, and impulses are essentially his, and which are the result of Christian conversion, hetero-patriarchal/colonialist white supremacy, homophobia, Bacardi, gummy candy, and not getting laid. 

IRL asks, what happens to a modern, queer indigenous person a few generations after his ancestors were alienated from their language, their religion, and their history? Teebs feels compelled towards “boys, burgers,booze,” though he begins to suspect there is perhaps a more ancient goddess calling to him behind art, behind music, behind poetry."

What People Are Saying

ariana reines

On the narrowing frontier between song & speech, memory & oblivion, future & no future, Native & American, IRL is Heraclitan, a river of text and sweat, whipping worlds into the silence of white pages: a new masterpiece.  And a new kind of masterpiece.  It's a lyric epic of desire whose hero renounces heroism.  & it's not he who voyages out in search of a world, but rather the devastated worlds in his own blood that seek him out, to mourn them.  I said epic of desire and I meant it: desire of every kind, for the infinite & the proximate, the fucking trite & the tried-and-true-- it's also a gorgeous monument, an act of memory for the future of all longing, for the fact of roots and the need for them, decolonizing poesis from the root without for one second the condescension of even the notion of safety.  For the poem is also deeply canny, and weary; it knows ""There is no post-colonial / America" and yet-- the poem keeps pushing out from under history, out beyond the poem's own billion negations, into a space both beyond identity and deep with it.

Simone White

A gleeful combination of exuberance and threat.

Inside the Book

Perfect Bound
6" x 9"
Publication Date:
September 2016


Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Review

The Los Angeles Review of Books

LA Review of Books

Lit Hub

Ruby Brunton

Brooklyn Poets

Interview and Poem


IRL in Sink Review

The Georgia Review

IRL in The Georgia Review


IRL in Splinter

New York Journal of Books

New York Journal of Books

Runestone Journal

Runestone Journal

The Stranger

The Stranger

Cordite Poetry Review

Cordite Poetry Review

From the Book



I tell Muse
Leave. Me. Alone. Muse
Muse is finally giving me
what I want. My hard won
sense of self surrenders thru
the sieve of yr attention every time.
What I mean is for fifteen
years I give all of myself to every
man I meet, mostly bc
I have nothing worth
holding. I want
to get lost, to merge and b
someone else. I look into
the water, a rolling exact
me I promise to find
or make something worth
holding onto. I’m giving
it to you. What I mean
is guard yourself. Erect
fences. Crop a mound
onto the bald land Sing
a Beyoncé song at
karaoke w/yr friends Envision
consequences n make
decisions Loose needles
of light from the dark
tent within Who is “everybody"
in the sentence “Everybody
Hates You”? Open
the book. Find
the song. I flush
at the prospect
of getting to know you
bc one of us will die
first n I develop
a taste for sparkling fizzy
rosé Great big bottles
of incapacitation. I run
hard until dark stars
blast away Tar Sands, Pine Ridge,
Ferguson, the Tea Party, stolen
Nigerian school girls, gay marriage,
Gaza, Kim Kardashian, Tim
Dlugos, fundamentalism, plane
shot from the sky over Ukraine
The bodies in summer sun
rot for days 6’5 white actor
slash personal trainer asks do I feel
connected to the land bc I’m
NDN—I haven’t learned to live
with everything yet
much less myself,
so I’m sorry for texting
@ 1:30 in the AM
I meant that for me
Come over, Teebs.
I can’t, w/anyone
until I find something
inside worth holding
and guarding and time.
Muse says Your ideation of me
is scary bc I’m a con-
struct of your imagination.
I’m afraid when you get
to know me, you won’t
like me—Not bc I’m
unlikable, but bc I’m
not yo
u. Lol. Never tell
a secret to a river.

More excerpts from IRL: