Virgil Suárez (SWA-rays), the son of a pattern cutter and a piecemeal seamstress who worked in the sweatshops of Havana, left Cuba in 1970 with his family. After four years in Madrid, Spain, they went to Los Angeles. A man of many interests and prolific literary output, Suárez raised three daughters with his wife in Florida. His multitude of works in numerous genres deal with immigration, exile, and acclimatization to life and culture in the United States as well as the hopes and struggles of Cubans and Cuban Americans who had to abandon their island home under political duress.
A self-confessed obsessive, whether about his family, his hobbies, or his writing, Suárez is preoccupied by voice. He cites physical place as paramount in the process of finding and producing his voice, whether in prose or poetry. Initially recognized for his fiction, Suárez has written poetry since 1978, though he only began to publish it in the mid-1990’s. He believes that voice is most important in poetry because of poetry’s space limitations. He feels so strongly about maintaining the authenticity of his personal voice that he discards any poem he believes does not respect and represent his voice.
That voice is of an immigrant who, although he has spent the majority of his life in his adopted land and does not expect to return to Cuba, still does not feel completely acclimated. Suárez writes about what he knows: the nature and travails of exile. Appropriately, given his mixed feelings, Suárez writes in English and includes a sprinkling of Spanish, reiterated in English. Nonetheless, critics characterize Suárez’s style as unwavering, definitive, and direct.
Suárez finished his secondary schooling in Los Angeles and received a B.A. in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach, in 1984. He studied at the University of Arizona and received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University in 1987. In addition to having been a visiting professor at the University of Texas in Austin in 1997, Suárez has taught at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami-Dade Community College, and Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Suárez’s poems alone have appeared in more than 250 magazines and journals. He has also been a book reviewer for the Los...
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