Introducing Feed

Tommy Pico

Excerpted with permission from Feed by Tommy Pico. Copyright © 2019. Tin House Books. Published in Active Cultures’ Digest, Issue 06, September 2020.


Tommy "Teebs" Pico is author of the books IRL (Birds, LLC, 2016), winner of the 2017 Brooklyn Library Literary Prize and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Nature Poem (Tin House Books, 2017), winner of a 2018 American Book Award and finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, Junk (Tin House Books, 2018) finalist for the 2019 Lambda Literary Award, Feed (Tin House Books, 2019), and the zine series Hey, Teebs. He was the founder and editor in chief of birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that published art and writing from 2008-2013. He was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural fellow, 2013 Lambda Literary fellow in poetry, a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, was awarded the 2017 Friends of Literature prize from the Poetry Foundation, won a 2018 Whiting Award, and he's been profiled in Time Out New York, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now splits his time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn. He co-curates the reading series Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker at the Ace Hotel, co-hosts the podcasts Food 4 Thot and Scream, Queen!, is poetry editor at Catapult Magazine, writes for the FX show Reservation Dogs, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.

Feed the book started out as "FEED: A Garden Soundscape," a jaunty audio-piece commissioned by the Friends of the High Line in New York. They approached me in February of 2018 with the idea of crafting something for the launch of their spring ephemeral garden, something dynamic and percussive, something you could listen to as you strolled the length of the park. They outfitted me with research materials and a tour of the park, but I had to do a lot of creative imagining. The park in February is not the same park in April. The park was initially an above ground train that mainly transported food from farms upstate into the city, to the docks, and consequently the nation. After the train stopped running, the High Line became a wild garden of disrepair. Today, the park is curated to recapture some of that same, wild feeling. It seemed like a great metaphor for reconciling with an ex, a major ex, potentially even the ex. How sometimes you need to let things go, let things fall into disrepair, if you ever hope to reclaim some kind of relationship with them. In Feed, the ex ("Leo") is someone I referred to in my first book IRL (though unnamed at the time) so writing this book also closed the loop in my tetralogy, closing the circuit and looping back to the first book.


30 feet in the rowdy
air, overlooking the yearly city sea change of



and the river, the farmers markets into printing presses into art
galleries, it was called the "life line of New York" because it was built
in part to transport milk, butter, eggs, meat, and cheese from farms
upstate into the city.

On the ground, the last man on horseback to precede the train down
the avenue waved through fourteen freight cars filled with oranges.
After decades of life, in 1980 the final


on the High Line train were three boxcars filled with turkeys for
Thanksgiving Day.

After almost 30 years
of being


the wild line I mean High Line became an accidental meadow
of roses
ailanthus trees
Virginia creeper
black cherry
Queen Anne's lace A wild, edenic recapturing of neglect
The park itself is a version of this, a matrix design
of microclimates in layered
associations that approximate the wilderness
with wildness, a curated dance of plant surprises—the shadbush
vibrating its hue from apricot to dogwood. The gardens stay
unfinished. The buildings grow and grow their spears of shade over the
park where some grasses persist, others thrive, and some just die.

Active Cultures is a cultural organization that explores the convergence of food and art in contemporary life.