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4.28  ·  Rating details ·  71 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Nancy 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 t ...more
Paperback, 28 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Rattle
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  71 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Kent Winward
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author runs a program for poetry in the jails and this chapbook came out of those efforts. I'm a sucker for jailhouse poetry, even though I've never spent more than a couple of hours in custody. Probably because of Raegan Butcher. Cheers Butch! ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This chapbook rocked my world. Not only is its imagery fantastic, the depth of humanity captured in these lines will keep me reading again and again. The book is about writing and teaching inside a prison, and it seeks to connect one group of humans to another with nothing more than shared humanity. This selection was one I started thinking I'd read the first couple of poems, and I didn't stop until I was done with the book. Captivating. ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Again Rattle has astounded me with its chapbook series selection. I know people who teach poetry writing in prisons, and I find the annual inmate reading the most moving poetry event of the year. It’s easy to think “how poetry saved my life” is hyperbole until you hear the authentic voices of those who have no future. Gomez is an attorney and poetry instructor, not an inmate. I thought she would water down the book’s impact. She did not. In only 17 pages of text, this chapbook makes a big impact ...more
David Anthony Sam
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 9 poems and 2 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 incarcer
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A lot of people talk the talk but Nancy Miller Gomez is clearly walking the walk too -- admitting the heinousness of a career in reality TV and the redemption to be found in teaching poetry to prisoners. This slim chapbook is only 28 pages, five of them blank. But there's no scarcity of content, feeling or purpose here. "Poetry was the life raft I'd climbed onto," Gomez says at one point. Anyone who writes or reads poetry knows how true her statement is. She's made a worthy raft here for all of ...more
Meagan Cahuasqui
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
There were some truly powerful pieces that brought tears to my eyes. It's a beautiful collection of poetry about how the act of writing, and poetry in general, can save lives and crack open even the toughest of exteriors as the speaker explores her experience as an instructor for prisoners. ...more
Mitch Rodricks
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection came with my issue of Rattle and I loved it. It is a pretty quick read, but worth rereading a few times.

The language and images are clear and accessible but never simplistic. It's a very cohesive collection that paints a beautiful (and sometimes heartbreaking) portrait of humanity and vulnerability in the last place you would expect.

With humor and humility, Ms. Gomez manages to avoid telling the standard story of finding redemption through teaching the irredeemable, and sheds an
Janel Brubaker
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely phenomenal! Jarring and honest and beautiful!
Abby N Lewis
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"These men had discovered that the pain and hurt and anger they'd carried throughout their lives could be placed onto the page and shared with others. And that sharing of stories cut through our differences and loneliness, connecting us in a way that mattered."

This chapbook is an observation on life in prison, and the power of poetry on the lives of these prisoner. Each one of these poems tugged at my heart in a different way.

All of the chapbooks Rattle publishes are great, but this one may be
Emma Filtness
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this beautifully frank and poignant chapbook, Nancy Miller Gomez capture the harsh prison setting with such gorgeous language and a keen eye for detail, and reveals the vulnerability and humanity of these men in a maximum security prison. Poetry is often considered 'soft', but to embrace it as these men do is to be brave and strong, which the poet explores throughout. I cried reading some of these. Some favourite lines include:"The things that want / to become colours and can't - / the voice ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, american-us
Hmm..this is definitely a great collection...beautifully crafted words...but somehow it didn't speak to me like many other Rattle collections. I felt little while I read each piece, and not sure why. Maybe it seemed detached...Nancy is an observer only. She is not incarcerated, so her words felt like those of a journalist reporting what she sees. Nothing wrong with that, but I personally need to feel something deeper...from the writer, when I read poetry. It's a great collection, but just not fo ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and compassionate. Simple images, snips from the life of a poet working to make life tolerable and meaningful. She extends her compassion to people considered dangerous and evil and shows them to be human, someone’s child, someone’s dad, someone’s student. I will remember “poetry lessons “ and “fruit” for a long time. Thank you, Debbie Campbell.
Bill DeGenaro
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic chapbook combining poetry and short essays, mostly reflections on teaching poetry in prison but with the writer's occasional references to her past life as a reality tv producer. This juxtaposition allows writer and reader alike to consider how storytelling, truth, reality, and humanity compare in the two different contexts. ...more
Jul 06, 2018 added it
I felt the poet's fear and smelled the close rooms.
"Stand Off" is perfect. I could read this all day.
The essays give context but alas take me a bit too far away from the tenderness.
(The teaching artist in me is so curious about her launch poems, and how she so clearly opened everyone up to themselves.)
Catherine Conley
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A mix of poems and prose poems that heart-renderingly explore the life of men in prison through the eyes and heart of a poet who taught them poetry in prison. Beautiful. "Growing Apples" is my particular favorite. There is such innocence and promise in men's engagement with the growing seeds. ...more
Laura (booksnob)
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, poetry
This is an amazing poetry collection. Punishment is was chosen as one of the winners in the Rattle Chapbook Prize contest and it is deserving. The poems are about the authors experience teaching poetry to inmates in prison.
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-chapbook
One of Rattle's 2018 chapbook contest winners about a woman teaching poetry in prison. As always, Rattle gives its subscribers so much for the cost of a subscription. ...more
Kelly Thomas
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
These poems are so quiet and intimate, juxtaposed against such a cold and sterile environment.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A (too-short) chapbook of poems about Gomez's experiences teaching poetry to incarcerated men.
Moving. Powerful. Informative. Highly recommend.
Feb 28, 2021 rated it liked it
A beautiful collection of poems that remind me why teaching and reading poetry is so important
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Re-read this collection now that I’ve been to a Lifer’s reading in the Oregon State Penitentiary. This holds up, and I love how Miller Gomez entwines her own salvation from the crimes she feels she has committed as a producer of “reality tv” shows. There is truth and healing laid bare within these pages.
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