By Tommy Pico


Junk by Tommy Pico

Welcome to the vibrant world of Tommy Pico’s poem, Junk! 📚✨ Published in 2018, this groundbreaking long-form poem is the third in Pico’s tetralogy that began with Irl and Nature Poem. Junk draws from the poet’s experiences as a queer Native American, weaving personal narratives with broader social commentaries.

Tommy Pico is a member of the Kumeyaay nation, and his work often challenges the boundaries of traditional poetry through its blend of high-velocity, vernacular, pop-culture, and internet slang. Junk itself is a genre-defying exploration of identity, relationships, and the detritus (or “junk”) that accumulates in our personal and communal lives. Let’s delve into the colorful and chaotic world Pico paints with his words!

Meaning of Junk

Opening section

In the opening of Junk, Pico sets the stage with rapid-fire lines that reflect the chaotic accumulation of modern life’s “junk.” The poem begins:

“Junk food, junk mail, junk bed,
bloated inbox, bloated body—junk everything”

Here, Pico uses repetition to emphasize how everyday life is cluttered with things that are transient yet overwhelming. This section introduces the central theme of the poem: the way material and emotional excess weigh on the modern individual.

Mid section

Midway through Junk, Pico shifts focus from personal to societal junk. He explores cultural identity and the burdens of history that individuals carry. Pico reflects on his Native American heritage and the complexities of being queer in a straight-dominated world. For example, he writes:

“The junk of tradition, the junk of history—
my junk is piled high with it”

This part of the poem invites readers to consider how historical and societal expectations shape their own accumulation of “junk.”

Concluding section

In the concluding section of Junk, Pico contemplates the possibility of redemption and cleansing from all the junk. The poem closes on a note of potential renewal, suggesting that amidst the clutter, there is hope for clarity and change:

“Can a body be a salvage yard—a fount of restoration?”

Pico uses rhetorical questions to prompt the reader to think about personal and collective healing, ending the poem with a sense of cautious optimism.

In-depth Analysis

Stanza Analysis and Literary Techniques

Stanza 1
Imagery and Anaphora: The poem begins with:

“Junk food, junk mail, junk bed,
bloated inbox, bloated body—junk everything”

Here, Pico employs anaphora, the repetition of a word at the beginning of successive clauses, which emphasizes the overwhelming presence of “junk” in various forms. This technique, combined with vivid imagery of bloatedness, sets a tone of excess and saturation.

Stanza 15
Metaphor and Juxtaposition:

“The empty calories of my history
The full stomach of my loneliness”

In these lines, Pico uses metaphor to liken his emotional experiences to eating habits, suggesting that historical and emotional burdens can be both empty and overwhelmingly full. The juxtaposition of “empty calories” with “full stomach” powerfully captures the paradox of feeling both undernourished and overstuffed by life’s experiences.

Stanza 30
Personification and Contrast:

“My fears whisper to me like wind through dead leaves”

This line personifies Pico’s fears, giving them the eerie and persistent quality of wind, a natural force that is both unavoidable and relentless. The contrast between the movement of wind and the stillness of “dead leaves” enhances the feeling of being stuck amidst ongoing anxieties.

Stanza 60
Alliteration and Consonance:

“Flickering, fleeting, forever caught between”

Pico uses alliteration (“Flickering, fleeting”) and consonance (the repetition of the ‘t’ sound in “fleeting” and “caught”) to create a rhythmic quality that mimics the ephemeral nature of thoughts and experiences, reflecting the transient yet persistent theme of junk in our lives.

Poetic Devices used in Junk

Alliteration“Flickering, fleeting, forever caught between”
Anaphora“Junk food, junk mail, junk bed,…”
Assonance“The ache, the oak, the echo”
Consonance“bloated inbox, bloated body”
Enjambment“Can a body be a salvage yard—a fount of restoration?”
Metaphor“The empty calories of my history”
Personification“My fears whisper to me like wind through dead leaves”
Simile“Lonely as a supermarket aisle”
SynecdocheUsing “inbox” to represent all communications
Juxtaposition“The full stomach of my loneliness”

Junk – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of ‘Junk’ by Tommy Pico?
A: The main theme of Junk revolves around the accumulation of material and emotional debris in modern life and its impact on personal and cultural identity.

Q: How does Tommy Pico incorporate his Native American heritage into ‘Junk’?
A: Pico intertwines his heritage through references to Native American history, the ongoing effects of colonization, and the personal conflict between his cultural identity and the contemporary world.

Q: What poetic form is ‘Junk’ written in, and how does it affect the poem’s delivery?
A: Junk is written as a long-form, stream-of-consciousness poem. This form allows Pico to fluidly traverse various topics and emotions, mirroring the chaotic accumulation of ‘junk’ in life.

Junk Study Guide

Exercise: Identifying Poetic Devices

Read the verse from Tommy Pico’s Junk below and list all the poetic devices you can identify. This exercise will help you understand how various elements contribute to the poem’s themes and tone.

Verse Provided:

“Threadbare theories tethered to my wrists—
Falling feathers from my fractured past,
We weave through webs of what we wish,
Worn words whisper, wilt in contrast.”

Answer Key:

  1. Alliteration: The repetition of initial consonant sounds in “Threadbare theories tethered to my wrists” and “We weave through webs of what we wish”.
  2. Assonance: The use of repeated vowel sounds in “Falling feathers from my fractured past”.
  3. Metaphor: Implicitly comparing past burdens or mistakes to “falling feathers” and “threadbare theories”.
  4. Personification: Giving human characteristics to words in “Worn words whisper”.
  5. Imagery: Visual elements created by descriptions like “falling feathers” and “threadbare theories”.
  6. Symbolism: Feathers symbolize fragility or things lost; webs may represent complications or traps in life.
  7. Enjambment: The continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, as seen throughout the verse.
  8. Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds, particularly the ‘w’ sound in “we weave webs” and “worn words whisper”.
  9. Simile: Implied comparison using “like” or “as” is absent, but metaphorical simile can be interpreted in “wilt in contrast” likening the diminishing strength or clarity of words to wilting plants.
  10. Synecdoche: Using a part to represent the whole or vice versa is subtly present if considering “wrist” as a part representing the whole person or being.

This exercise encourages students to actively engage with the text, enhancing their analytical skills and deepening their appreciation of Pico’s poetic craftsmanship. By dissecting the verse, students can see how poetic devices are not just decorative but work to build deeper meaning and resonance within the poem’s thematic framework.