In Memoriam: Jay Hopler, 2011 Fellow

Photograph of Jay Hopler
Jay Hopler, 2011 Rome Prize Fellow (photo from the AAR Institutional Archive)
A group of people in a studio at dusk
From left: Paul Rudy (2011 Fellow), Aparna Keshaviah, Casey Brown (2011 Fellow), Stephanie Malia Hom (2011 Fellow), Jay Hopler (2011 Fellow), and Tyler Travillian (2011 Fellow) in the studio of Casey Brown

On June 15, Jay Hopler (2011 Fellow) died in Salt Lake City, age 51, after a battle with prostate cancer. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Hopler knew he would be a writer from a young age. Hopler earned an MA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. At the time of his death, he directed the creative writing program at the University of South Florida. His honors as a poet and writer were many. In addition to winning the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, Hopler won a Whiting Award, two Florida Book Awards, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2022.

His first collection of poetry, Green Squall, won the 2006 Yale Younger Poets Prize, and his second collection, The Abridged History of Rainfall (2016), was a finalist for the National Book Award. He edited several other books, including Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (2013). Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature and a dear friend of Hopler’s, remembered Hopler for “the enormous subtlety and resourcefulness of his mind, and his uncanny sense of juxtaposition and sequence.”

Hopler died only days after the June 7 publication of his latest book, Still Life (McSweeney’s Publishing), a collection of poems that confronts his terminal cancer diagnosis with pathos and humor, showing all the fierceness of the human heart. Hopler is survived by his wife, Kimberly, his stepsons Elijah West Greenfield and Bennett Zion Greenfield, and his sisters Sharee Hopler and Jean Ann Luce. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked those who wish to honor Hopler’s memory to donate time or resources to help unhoused people and vulnerable animals.

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