Nancy Miller Gomez

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Punishment by Nancy Miller GomezNancy Miller Gomez entered Salinas Valley State Prison with a backpack of poems and a fear of being caught in a lockdown. What she discovered was compassion and human connection. The poems and essays in this collection, Gomez’s first, were inspired by her experience teaching writing workshops in jails and prisons. Punishment explores the stories of people serving time in the criminal justice system. It demonstrates the ways creative expression can mend emotional wounds, bridge differences, and reconnect us to our humanity. Punishment is a moving tribute to the redemptive power of poetry.

Praise for Punishment

If poetry is, at its essence, a way for humans to see and touch each other, then Nancy Miller Gomez’s carefully observed, finely crafted poems are doing the work of poetry. In these times when the divide between people so often seems too great to be crossed, when hatred and prejudice are state-sponsored, when the intersection of race, justice, and imprisonment has led to the United States having the largest incarceration rate of any country in the world, these poems are an important and necessary voice. I’m grateful to Nancy Miller Gomez for Punishment.
—Ellen Bass, author of The Courage to Heal

Whenever I begin to read a collection of poetry, I hope for that feeling of a wind in my chest, that the “top if my head is taken off.” This small collection by Nancy Miller Gomez did that for me. At only nine poems and two short autobiographical prose pieces, Punishment has more power than many other, much longer collections. Gomez has translated her experiences teaching poetry in prison into vital, living verse, without in any way betraying or making maudlin the essential reality of those incarcerated.
—David Anthony Sam, on Goodreads

Thank you, Nancy Miller Gomez, for taking us behind bars, for sharing searing stories relayed beyond guards—Lorenzo, we will never forget you—thank you also, Gomez, for the essays telling how saving lives saved yours. ‘Growing Apples’ in Cell C is reason for all of us to go on. How do we get this book to every appointed official? How do we get this book to everyone?
—Grace Cavalieri, in Washington Independent Review of Books

Sample Poems

• “Discovering Colors in Prison” in Bellingham Review #73
• “Punishment” in Rattle (online)
• “Stand Off” in Rattle (online)
• “Growing Apples” in Rattle (online)
• “Invoking the Muse in Cell Block B” in Rattle (online)

Other Poems

• “Supernova” in Rattle #52
• “Deadbeat” in Rattle #52
• “How I Lived” in Bellingham Review #73
• “Vengeance” in River Styx #94

About the Author

Nancy Miller GomezNancy Miller Gomez grew up in Kansas but currently lives in Santa Cruz, California. Her work has appeared in River Styx, Rattle, Bellingham Review, Nimrod, and elsewhere. She has a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing from Pacific University. She has worked as a stable hand, an attorney, and a TV producer, and volunteers as the director of the Santa Cruz Poetry Project, an organization that provides poetry and writing workshops to incarcerated men and women. For more information on the Santa Cruz Poetry Project, visit their website.


Cover art by Benedikt Geyer (CC0, modified)

Author photo by Chris Schmauch

ISBN: 978-1-931307-37-6
Cover price: $6.00
Chapbook: 28 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″