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Visiting writer brings out students' inner poet

Santa Catalina School welcomed poet Nancy Miller Gomez as the 2024 Writer in Residence from March 4-7.

Gomez spent the week with Catalina’s English classes and led a writing workshop for interested students.

Gomez told students about her path to poetry after working as a lawyer and TV producer, and described poets as “the fighter pilots of the writing world,” precise in their words and craft.

In the English classes, she ran students through exercises that asked them to pay attention to the world around them. First, she had them write down something they noticed about the room they were in. Then, she told them to think about something they noticed earlier in the day. Finally, students were asked to look further back and retrieve a memory. What did they notice that caught their attention, and why did they hang on to the images? Paying attention is a poet’s first job, she said. A poet’s second job is trying to describe what they notice. Sharing a number of examples, Gomez touched on elements of poetry such as imagery, sensory details, and figurative language. She continued her instruction in a well-attended writing workshop, where she focused on personification.

Ultimately, Gomez encouraged students to be brave and to share their stories with others. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be brilliant,” she said. “It just has to be real.”

English department chair Dr. Raegan Russell said, “The girls responded eagerly to Ms. Gomez’s joyful introduction to the relationship between paying attention and writing poetry. She had them writing beautiful poems in a matter of minutes in her workshops. I am delighted by the way she inspired our community!”

Gomez’s work has appeared in numerous publications, and her first full-length book, Inconsolable Objects, will be published in May. She also co-founded an organization that offers writing workshops in jails and prisons. Learn more at nancymillergomez.com.

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