Janine Pommy was born on February 5, 1942, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and grew up in Union City, New Jersey. Her father worked as a milkman in the mornings and a carpenter in the afternoons. At the age of sixteen, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, she traveled to Manhattan to become involved in the Beat scene there.
In 1962, Vega moved to Europe with her husband, painter Fernando Vega. After his sudden death in Spain in 1965, she returned to New York, and then moved to California. Her first book, Poems to Fernando, was published by City Lights in 1968 as part of their City Lights Pocket Poets Series. During the early-1970s, Vega lived as a hermit on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Out of this self-imposed exile came Journal of a Hermit (1974) and Morning Passage (1976).
Following her return to the Americas, she has published more than a dozen books, including Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents (1997) which is a collection of travel writings. Her last book of poetry was The Green Piano.
In the 1970s, Vega began working as an educator in schools through various arts in education programs and in prisons through the Incisions/Arts organisation. She has served on the PEN Prison Writing Committee. Pommy Vega was a pioneer of the women’s movement in the United States. She had worked to improve the lives, conditions, and opportunities for women in prison.
Vega had traveled throughout the North American and South American continents, all throughout Europe, including Eastern Europe, countries in the Middle East, often alone. She made friends everywhere, approaching all on the same, basic, human level, with love and compassion.