Gretchen Gomez, 29, is a Puerto Rican poet from The Bronx. She was raised as a pastor’s daughter and discovered a love of writing early on and has now published two poetry collections. She released her first book, “love, & you” in 2017 and dedicated it to women who have experienced painful relationships. While the first collection was about overcoming heartbreak and discovering self-love, her latest, “Welcome to Ghost Town” is about confronting the ghosts of her past. Released in October of this year, the collection of poems is a personal journey through painful and traumatic experiences as a form of healing.
FIERCE spoke with Gomez for a better understanding of her book and the process she used to write..
Q: “Welcome to Ghost Town” deals with heavy subject matter, what was the process of writing this book like for you?
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today marks the worldwide release of welcome to ghost town. thanks to all of you, i’ve hit # 1 new releases and # 1 best seller in hispanic-american poetry on amazon for both paperback and kindle editions. thanks for all your love and support. this book is me stripped bare. ????????
A: “I have to breakdown the process because there are two parts to this process. Before ‘Welcome To Ghost Town’ became a poetry collection, it was a poetry blog series. All the first poems from ghosts 1-17 are from that collection. When I wrote those specific 17 poems, I was in a different head space. I was writing to let it out without a worry because at that time my first collection wasn’t even out and no one in my personal life really knew about my blog. Therefore it was easier to write because I was pretty much touching the surface with these 17 poems.
The second part to this process is the very much harder part. When I decided to make this poetry series into a book, I wanted this to be a full collection not a chapbook. It’s when I started playing with the idea of adding short poems to those long ones (that were featured on the blog) and also adding the ghosts that weren’t apart of the blog series. I started tapping into suppressed memories and memories that I tried so hard not to relive. I don’t like thinking things into existence. I remember being in Vermont and balling my eyes out while I wrote about 90 percent of “Welcome To Ghost Town”. Because I lived the sadness again, I lived the abandonment, the horrors, my first heartbreak, the loneliness, the abuse, these crimes that were done to me. The process was hard.”
Q: What inspired you to delve into the ghosts of your past?
A: “My synopsis says ‘you might not be a part of my life anymore but you’re still the ghosts who haunt me.’ That means various things like them visiting me in my dreams/nightmares, seeing these ghosts in people I meet or pass by, memories of them coming into my mind when I do or see certain things, etc. And so life and pain and wanting to be free from them definitely inspired me to write about the ghosts.
Is there a poem in this book that was particularly difficult for you to write? Did the process of writing help you through it?
There’s actually a whole part that was super difficult for me to write. Ghost 19: #metoo there came a point where I thought about leaving this one out because I knew it was going to open up a can of worms in my personal life (thankfully it hasn’t, yet). Writing it, owning it, telling my truth, and also letting it be apart of the book as my ‘this is my f*** you for messing up my life and you will never take anything away from me ever again’ was very freeing. The process of not only writing it but keeping it in the book definitely helped me with the collection and my truths as a whole.”
Q: In the wake of the #metoo movement, how do you feel about being so open about your experiences?
A: “Again it’s just my big f*** you to these people. ‘Welcome To Ghost Town’ only talks about one experience which is the ghost mentioned above. I’ve unfortunately have gone through that more than once and talking about it is like me reclaiming what has always been mine. My voice, my body, my mental health, my strength, me. All of me. And so every time I open up about these crimes committed against me, I am letting myself know that I am not a prisoner and it feels liberating.”
Q: Mental health and trauma aren’t often talked about in Latinx culture, what would you like to see change and what would you say to someone who has experienced similar trauma?
A: “I would love to see more accessible resources to the Latinx community in regards to seeking mental help. I feel like because mental health is such a stigma within the Latinx culture, it’s something we don’t really talk about or push because we worry about offending our loved ones. I think talking about it, having positive discussions about mental health would be an open door.
I would tell someone who has experienced similar trauma as me to seek professional help if they can. Regardless of how similar our trauma is, our healing journey’s can be vastly different. Find peace within yourself and know that it was never your fault. You are not guilty of your trauma’s. There is no going back and changing time but there is forward and creating your future.”
Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book? The most rewarding?
A: “The most challenging part of writing this book was the thought of people reading this and the unknown that came from that because I know there isn’t a book like welcome to ghost town out in the market right now. Therefore when it came to editing this book, I was very torn with keeping the collection or throwing it out.
The most rewarding has been the conversations I’ve had with people in my life and finding more healing from speaking out. I had a conversation with this person who I hold very dear to my heart, knowing some of her story and her telling me that she has courage to be bold because of welcome to ghost town was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Because knowing that I touched one person’s life and they broke out of whatever is holding them back, weighs a lot more than a negative review where someone couldn’t relate to my book. And that is rewarding.”
Q: What would you like readers to take away from this book?
A: “Say your truth boldly no matter how awful it is. Don’t ever let anyone take your voice away because it is one of the most powerful things you have. Be brave, be courageous, and know that you can make it through. Tomorrow is another step further from your present pain.”