What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?
About Discovering Colors in Prison: I was teaching a poetry workshop at Salinas Valley State Prison. There’s so much sensory deprivation there—everything drab and colorless, but the men in the class are hungry for scholarly conversations. I shared an article on how language shapes our perceptions. In one study, children from a tribe whose lexicon didn’t include a word for blue were less able to “see” blue. This led to a discussion about how poets try to describe things for which words don’t already exist. Then someone asked, “Do they ever discover new colors?”
How We Lived is a persona poem triggered by a personal memory. I wanted the quiet perseverance of the speaker to stand in for every woman who is doing whatever she has to do to get through her days.
What writing advice has stayed with you?
I asked Dorianne Laux what to do when I felt like I had no more poems in me. Dorianne’s response: “As far as no poems left in the old soul hopper, yep, feel that way a lot, and then, just when I’ve thrown up my hands and said Fuck it, I’m going to become a painter, I find myself sitting down to write a poem and thinking damn it, they just won’t leave me alone. So my advice is to just throw in the towel. Or keep writing. Which ever comes first.”
What is your favorite book? Favorite writer?
My favorite books are too numerous to name here, but I’ll mention one: The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton’s poetic interpretations of the Taoist teachings of Chuang Tzu. The book cultivates, in Merton’s words, “a certain taste for simplicity, for humility, self-effacement, silence, and in general a refusal to take seriously the aggressivity, the ambition, the push and the self-importance which one must display in order to get along in society.”
What are you reading right now?
Mary Karr’s The Art Of Memoir
What project are you working on now?
I’m working on my thesis for my MFA—a collection of poems called The Season of Our Addictions. I’m also working on a prose collection called Self Deception for Survival: A Handbook.
Anything else our readers might want to know about you?
I collect old clocks, cameras, and other objects that stop time and hold stories. I love being with my family.
NANCY GOMEZ has been published in River Styx and Rattle. She studies with Ellen Bass in Santa Cruz, California, and is currently in the MFA program at Pacific University.