The acclaimed poet Rane Arroyo died of a cerebral hemorrhage on May 7, at the age of 54. Arroyo taught creative writing at the University of Toledo. Read a tribute to him in the Toledo Free Press:
…“His death is a great tragedy and loss for poetry and Puerto Rican literature in the United States,” said Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, a Latino studies and Spanish professor at the University of Michigan.
Arroyo was a mentor to La Fountain-Stokes, who said Arroyo was very generous with his fellow writers and fellow poets. Arroyo visited La Fountain-Stokes’ classes for presentations.
“He was an incredibly funny and warm person who was gifted as an artist. He had an ability to translate his experiences as a gay man and a Latino from Chicago, and the experiences with his family and with his partner. He was able to translate all of that into poetry that was accessible and that was in the grade of the great American and English poets,” La Fountain-Stokes said.
La Fountain-Stokes said Arroyo used his poetry to share his experiences as a gay and Latino man in the United States and show that Latinos have something to say in American Literature.
“In the U.S,. where gay and Latino people have been looked down upon, his work is very pertinent for our political atmosphere,” he said.
Sample poems from his collection The Sky’s Weight (Cincinnati: Turning Point Books, 2009) are posted on the publisher’s website . They’ve kindly given me permission to reprint this poem:
Come Back, Blue Jay
Let the cats interrogate far birds
to be forgotten after the sun returns to
its black hole throne. Daylight keeps me
safe from forever. No one has quoted
joy in years and yes it hurts
to be so jauntily human. Look!
A bluejay: blue, sky blue, like sky.
Clouds are slow period marks
in a profound letter to Now.
Why do we ever feel unloved?
Update: Read a tribute to Arroyo by editor Gloria Mindock in the June 2010 Cervena Barva Press newsletter.