90 Miles

90 Miles

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Author: Virgil Suarez 

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press (2005)

 

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.”

–Martin Espada