The shadow of the poet's late father looms large in the Cuban-born Suárez's two fall collections. Suárez's mini-memoirs read like a photo album of verse, one which seems instantly familiar. In "Carp," the opening poem of Palm Crows, the poet recalls an afternoon fishing with his late father. The day was "crisp" and the trees offered a "quiet stillness." The poet worries about his aged father. The father catches a fish, but it wriggles free. Life is precious, end of poem: "my father grinned/ because he knew we had shared a moment,/ unlike so many others in our lives. This one,/ like the vulnerability of the carp, hooked/ in his memory, in mine, like some gold coin." The bulk of these poems are similar episodic paeans often accompanied by and ending with a life's lesson. After chronicling the emotional pain felt by the father after a debilitating job-related accident, the poem concludes with the detached observation: "Hard to convince a man who's lost/ his spirit to hang in there." The harsh present-day realities of Cuba appear as "dilapidated buildings/ a poetry of crumbling stone"—if not a whitewash, then a look at the brighter side. Curiously, a few poems ("El Despere," "Song to Mango," "Middle Ground") make appearances in both collections. The earnestness of the work is unquestionable, but some readers will be disappointed to find political realities so thoroughly transmuted into familial relations and reflections of childhood. (Banyan: Dec.; Crows: Oct.)
Forecast:Suárez is the author of Spared Angola: Memories of a Cuban-American Childhood, a short story collection, three previous poetry collections and four novels, including Havana Thursdays. The accessibility of these poems should make them attractive to After Night Falls fans and others looking for representations of Cuba. Suárez's professorship at the large Florida State University and the readership for his novels should generate further sales.
Release date: 07/01/2001