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 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.
Lorea sits down companionably on the sofa in grieving households; the poet's grandfather conjures lightning and collects it in jars in Havana - and the ninety miles of water that separate Cuba from the U.S. are traversed in a heartbeat.
Suarez is a poet of witness, and therefore, a moral compass for our times. . . . There is a lush oddnes of diction here that comes only from those who know the language second. . . . Most striking . . . is the poet's ability to sustain the moments of many of these poems easily over the course of sixty or more lines so that we become emotional participants, caught up in an urgent and necessary movement towards stunning inevitabilities that, in these dangerous days, we cannot do without.
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.
His attention to detail is a delight, and his energetic voice, with the tint of his native tongue, is powerful and compelling. . . . Suarez 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.
Virgil Suarez 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.learn more