Saturday, May 8, 2010


I just found out that Rane Arroyo passed away this Thursday. He is one of my heroes, as I wrote about him on my blog. He is one of the most important poets--gay or straight--in the nation today, blending the personal and the political in amazing, comic, and important ways. I think SUNY Brockport this semester is where he gave his last reading.

Here is the link to his dancing during the actual SUNY Brockport reading he gave:

This is the post I wrote about him on March 29, 2009. It is entitled "Writing Joy: The Truly Amazing Poems of Rane Arroyo":

Only the best poets can convey joy. Unabashed, authentic joy. Which is probably the most important feeling to express. In the queer poetry world, victim narratives and reductive identity politic still rule supreme. With the creepy way PoBiz (and the world) operates, how can one find the courage to display an emotion as natural and as generous as joy?

I don’t know.

But I believe that Rane Arroyo’s The Buried Sea, new and selected poems, accomplishes that feat.

There are not too many queer books (and books in general) that I find as ethical, generous, and as artful as his. I can only think of one book last year that gave me as much pleasure: queer poet Tom Savage’s Brainlifts. Both of these books transcend their label as queer literature and can and should have competed as finalists for national, mainstream awards...

Let’s look at these inspired openings from Arroyo’s poems:

You’re dead, but the skies are not.
This Ohio storm makes me think of your
blackening Chilean horizons. What use

is your name now in the not-now
not-here? Neruda. Ne. Ruda. Neru.
Da. It was a wonderful mask, no?…
(“The Visitor”)


What I dislike about daylight is its
muscularity. What need to claim
everything, only to release it
at dusk, when man and woman need a
godparent? Do you notice how my
hands seem blue and yet I’m wearing no
sapphire nor do I play the piano?…
(“A Bolero, But Not for Dancing”)


Yet another Puerto Rican
Buddhist. He wants to breathe in
peace while keeping his rice-
and-bean cooking skills, his accent,

his blue jeans from the Santana
years, his wine and rum collections
housed inside his head. Today’s lesson:
fireflies know they’re grasshoppers
illusory stars…
(“Breathing Lessons”)


You’re still the island of the holy
palm tree. What can I offer to the man
married first to God, and then soon to
the wrong rib?
(“Almost a Revelation for Two in Bed”)

Perhaps a truly significant poet makes you not want to add anything to their words. You know their writing can do all the work. As a critic, you need to shut up.

Here’s an excerpt from yet another poem. From “Salsa Capitalism”:

…I live on a teacher’s
salary but salsa capitalism isn’t about
money or trickle-down theory of

Lorca’s duende. It’s about hearing
music to be spent inside our bodies,
rhythms’ richness, the dancing, our

now foreign tears’ rum, free will that’s
not taxed, kingdom come as crumbs…
(“Salsa Capitalism”)

And finally, here’s “World Citizen” in its entirety:

Charon doesn’t know a Cuban
from a Puerto Rican.
They are all firewood to deliver.

They’re as dead as everyone else.
Charon throws passports and visas
into the bloodied river.

He strips everyone upon landing;
then they truly disappear into
God’s dark imagination.

Charon rows back to us who,
while waiting for him on shore,
argue as if countries exist.

We’re naked without our flags.


  1. I love that you highlight the joy here. And I love that when you really love a poet, you let his poems do the speaking. I'm sad Rane is not writing any more of these amazing poems.

  2. This is horrible news -- I can find any information anywhere about his death. Has there been an obit published?

  3. Thanks Steve for this lovely blog. Actually, Rane was prolific and has many mss. written over the years, as well as memoir. So his words will continue, Nik. Karen, no, there will not be an obit, but a mutual friend of ours updated Wikipedia, and if you have any additional questions, you can always email me at I can't guarantee I'll answer the questions if I find them to personal; Rane was gregarious and outgoing, but he was also, in his personal life, obsessively private--something that would surpass even Emily Dickinson's lifestyle.

  4. Great tribute. Rane will be missed...

  5. i remember well the first time i heard rane read from his not yet published the singing shark. he and his words and his singing mesmerized and moved me -- not to the point of dancing because that would have been ugly! -- and i was fortunate in the years that followed that reading to count rane and glenn among my friends. having moved from the ohio valley five years ago, i had also lost track of them both. to learn that i have lost rane forever i find also that i am remembering again the singing shark, that juan angel among millions. my best to you glenn, glenn. warmest condolences, kjm

  6. I had the chance to study with Rane as a student--He was the most influential teacher I've ever had. Not just as my role as in the classroom, but as my role in the world around me. I will miss him greatly, he was an inspiration just to be around. Truly blessed to have known him.

  7. I am really sorry to hear this. I re-read the Singing Shark recently and thought of him. I, too, remember him reading from this manuscript. His voice will be missed. My thoughts are with Glenn too.--Danielle DeMuth

  8. Glenn, I'm very sorry for your loss. Rane was a man and a poet truly full of heart-light.

    And Steven, you've done a fine job of remembering Rane. Nailed things very clearly in the way you speak of Rane's joyfulness. As he showed all of us here in Brockport, he was/is a man and a poet who has grown comfortable in his own skin, with the burnished patina of a quiet, confident soul, labels and opinions be damned. We were lucky to have enjoyed his visit. Very sorry to hear the news of your hero's passing.

  9. (from Facebook)
    Roger Charbonneau April 1 at 12:00pm
    Dr. Arroyo,
    I had a wonderful time last night at your reading for Brockport.
    It is encouraging to witness a successful writer who is so thought-provoking, yet filled the room with such joy.
    Steve Fellner was spot-on.
    Roger Charbonneau

    Rane Arroyo April 3 at 12:53am
    The irony, Roger, that this a field that rewards fake people and also those who have their own voice. What you saw is me--no pretense. One path is fast and one is slower. working on my new poems about how clueeless i was when young (maybe still, lol!).
    Joy is power. real power.
    Best. Rane