Selected And New Poems
By Virgil Suarez
(University of Pittsburgh Press, Paperback, 9780822958802, 114pp.)
Publication Date: March 2005
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Ninety miles separate Cuba and Key West, Florida. Crossing that distance, thousands of Cubans have lost their lives. For Cuban American poet Virgil Suárez, that expanse of ocean represents the state of exile, which he has imaginatively bridged in over two decades of compelling poetry.
"Whatever isn't voiced in time drowns," Suárez writes in "River Fable," and the urgency to articulate the complex yearnings of the displaced marks all the poems collected here. 90 Miles contains the best work from Suárez's six previous collections: You Come Singing, Garabato, In the Republic of Longing, Palm Crows, Banyan, and Guide to the Blue Tongue, as well as important new poems.
At once meditative, confessional, and political, Suárez's work displays the refracted nature of a life of exile spent in Cuba, Spain, and the United States. Connected through memory and desire, Caribbean palms wave over American junk mail. Cuban mangos rot on Miami hospital trays. William Shakespeare visits Havana. And the ones who left Cuba plant trees of reconciliation with the ones who stayed.
Courageously prolific, Virgil Suárez is one of the most important Latino writers of his generation.
Virgil Suárez was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1962. Since 1974 he has lived in the United States. In addition to his six previous collections of poetry, he is the author of four novels, The Cutter, Latin Jazz, Havana Thursdays, and Going Under, and of the collections of stories Welcome to the Oasis and Other Stories. Two memoirs, Spared Angola: Memories from a Cuban-American Childhood and Infinite Refuge, chronicle his life of exile. He has edited many successful anthologies, including Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction; Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology; American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement; Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America; and Vespers: Contemporary American Poems of Religion and Spirituality. He lives in Florida.
“Suarez’s voice is a heartbreaking combination of outrage and longing . . . ‘90 Miles’, a selection of one poet’s previous collections of poetry, is a rarity in the industry. That this poet is Latino is additional cause for celebration and sincere pride.”
--El Paso Times
“Virgil Suarez has emerged as a major voice in Cuban American literature, as this collection clearly demonstrates. Suarez is a poet of praise: for his working-class immigrant parents, for the music of Cuba, for the mangos of his beloved island. His range of reference is impressive; Li Po, Shakespeare, J. Edgar Hoover, and many others walk through the Habana of his poetic imagination. Virgil Suarez is a trustworthy guide in this world, and any other.”
"These poems, at once exuberant and sophisticated, are driven by the desire to preserve. Suárez holds onto the precious country of family, and he skillfully recounts its history. He is constantly aware of his environment, both what it is and what it is not. How the language is his and is not. He explores the magic and wonder of the everyday where everything is new and is not new. This is poetry of grand appetites, longing to take it all in everywhere, to savor the rich sweetness of this world."
“His attention to detail is a delight, and his energetic voice, with the tint of his native tongue, is powerful and compelling. . . . Suárez is one of today’s more important Latino voices, and this volume should be included in any serious contemporary poetry collection.”
“The music of the poems oscillates internally between the fluidity of a few Spanish words and the harsher syllables of English, offering a compelling sense of dislocation, true to the book’s primary concerns.”