Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan


Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was a poet, educator, and enthusiastic cat lady. A native of Los Angeles, California, she stayed in her hometown to pursue her bachelor’s degree in English at Loyola Marymount University. There, she shone as the editor of the school’s literary magazine, L.A. Miscellany. After graduation, she moved to Charlottesville to earn her Master of Fine Arts in poetry at the University of Virginia, where she was mentored by former Library of Congress Poet Laureate Rita Dove as a Henry Hoyns Fellow. She was one of just three Asian American students in her MFA cohort, but rather than giving in to assumptions about her experience, she cared deeply about representing her identity as a Japanese American woman on her own terms in her poetry. After completing her degree at UVA, Kageyama-Ramakrishnan moved back to her home state to pursue a master’s degree in literature from the University of California, Berkeley; a lifelong learner, she rounded out her formal education with a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. Kageyama-Ramakrishnan remained in the city to take on a full-time instructor position at Houston Community College, Central Campus. She published two acclaimed poetry collections with Four Way Books: Shadow Mountain in 2008 and Bear, Diamonds and Crane in 2011. Her final collection, Vidya’s Tree, was published posthumously in 2019 by Bull City Press. Her verses pulse with profound love and warmth founded in Kageyama-Ramakrishnan’s relationship with her family, past and present. She wrote in plain-spoken but sensually rich language about memories and mythology of varied ancestors who came before her, and of the comfort she wanted to pass along to her own daughter. Kageyama-Ramakrishan passed away of respiratory failure in 2016 at the age of 46. She lived in Houston with her beloved family: her husband Raj, a scientist at Baylor College of Medicine, her daughter Vidya, and her many cats.