Interview with Tommy Pico

by | Apr 30, 2013 | Features

Picture 3Tommy “Teebs” Pico writes the zine/tumblr “Hey Teebs” and is the editor of birdsong: an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that publishes art and writing. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn and is working on his first collection of poetry.

Tommy has created a Kickstarter to raise money for a ‘best of’ magazine to compile some of the art and words that have contributed to the past 19 issues of his collective. The last day to contribute is today.

Tommy talks with me about chicken wings, the Brooklyn Zine Fest and artistic community.

What are you excited about in literature this month, and what are you excited about in your personal life this week?

Re: lit, at the end of the month my friend Kayla Morse—one of my favorite poets of all space and time—is releasing her first zine and I can’t wait! Her writing is funny, exciting, heartbreaking, gnarly and unbelievably smart.

Re: personal life, this week I kind of re-discovered my love of chicken wings (like it ever went anywhere?) at a Thai place with a cute boy who started calling me his boyfriend, and have begun planning this epic chicken wing eating tour of NYC. Personally, I find all that very exciting.

Last weekend, you shared a table at the Brooklyn Zine Fest with my good friend, Adam J. Kurtz. Tell me about your day, the best people you met at the fest and if you had enough elbow room next to Adam.

It was really fun and enlightening, and I sold out or traded away everything I brought! I’ve worked at fairs and fests before for lots of different magazines and publishers but rarely for myself/birdsong. This time I learned how to talk about what I’m doing very succinctly and convincingly over and over and over again for 7 hours straight… and being “on” that long is hard for me, because normally my social meter depletes very quickly (especially with strangers).


It really helped having Adam right there—he is a charming showman, though I don’t know if he’d own up to it, and that setting seemed to feed him as much as it exhausted me. I felt like I had to match his energy, and it made me better: one passerby deemed me the friendliest exhibitor at the fair! Which of course Adam took issue with, and that was really the greatest prize 😛

In March, I sat in the backseat of my friend Adam Robinson’s (no relation to previous Adam mentioned in this interview) car as we drove from Baltimore to Boston for AWP. I sat next to a large pile of books and papers and began to finger through them because I have no sense of personal boundaries. Near the top of the pile was a copy of the most recent issue of your publication, Birdsong. There was a slight moment of confusion as I thought, ‘I don’t remember bringing this with me,’ and then excitement as I realized you had also mailed one to Adam.


Birdsong has released 19 issues to date and is more than just a magazine. Can you talk about the driving force and collective idea behind it?

I’m from an Indian reservation in southern California, and I think when I left home I was looking to replace or remake that strong sense of community somehow. I moved to New York and wanted to be part of some kind of lit/art scene like the one’s I’d read about and idealized as a teenager—New York School, Chelsea Hotel, etc.

After awhile, just being around my smart and talented friends, I started to realized I already had the thing that I wanted, I already had an artistic community—so I started Birdsong as a place where all the work being produced by my friends could live. I don’t do open submission calls, the writing and art comes from the same group of people each time.

Do you have springtime allergies, and if so, what have you found is the best medication/method of alleviating your symptoms?

I do, but I haven’t gotten any attacks yet. My medication is straight up denial.