Tommy Pico recently published a chapbook, but he skipped all the photocopying and stapling. Instead, Absent Mindr is available for free in Apple’s app store, featuring 24 poems, audio of each read aloud, original art, and more. “I try to capture the exuberance and threat that comes from being young, sort of on the run from my roots on the Viejas Indian Reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation, living in Brooklyn, being queer, and filling oneself with love, food, music, the Internet, drugs, etc.,” he says in an email. “And, well, of course poetry.” We caught up with Pico, who also edits the Brooklyn-based zine birdsong, about cellphone addiction, re-creating the Chelsea Hotel off the Montrose stop, and more.
Where did the idea of a poetry app come from?
Unfortunately I am preeeetty addicted to my phone: as a way of accessing media and “meeting” “lovers” and maintaining friendships and reading new poems/poets. I never bought a poetry book to get “exposed” to someone; I gain that exposure through links and tweets and status updates and Tumblr. I guess I wanted to make something that presented poetry in a similar way I consume it everyday.
What are the benefits of an app over, say, a plain ol’ e-book?
I’ve spent a long time learning how to read aloud in front of people and get comfortable with my voice, and ultimately get into it. I sound so freaking faggy, and I’m just in love with it (now). The app format allowed me a way to include audio with the text, in a very smartphone-swipey interface. All thanks go to the hard work of the developer/publisher VERBALVISUAL.
What is the state of poetry in the city like today?
Sometimes I go to bed whirring, can’t wait to get up the next day because of all the cool shit being made: the journals, reading series, small presses, salons, etc. that are here or blow through here. Nepantla, Dark Matter, Sister Spit, the Book Report, Mellow Pages Library, Mental Marginalia, Wonder, the Bushwick Review, Pussy Faggot, the Enclave, Mixer… and so much more. Fuck people who say New York is over. We just did a butterfly thing.
What other ways besides apps might get people interested in poetry?
Honestly, I’m not completely sure, and I think that’s something we’re all trying to figure out. There’s something about the ethos of poetry, something you have to spend a lot of time with and give yourself over to and eventually, when it’s ready, get something from. That runs contra to our climate of instant gratification. But then again there are some wonderful poets, like Melissa Broder and Patricia Lockwood, who are doing wonderful things on Twitter. Questions like these make for exciting innovations, and I think in that way we are learning how poetry endures/adapts to/courts attention spans.
Which neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Bushburg, off Montrose in that tract that’s not quite one or the other. But! I’m in the exact kind of situation I always wanted: living in a lil’ building full of writers, musicians, academics, artists, and charmers who I adore. I always wanted that Chelsea Hotel or that Factory or that Black Mountain when I moved here. Now I have it and I am over the moon
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart