Lou Suarez grew up in the 1950s in Canton, Ohio, a small city south of Cleveland that provides an idyllic setting for many of his poems. Suarez finds inspiration across northeastern Ohio: after a childhood spent in Canton, he attended Kent State University to earn both his B.A. and M.A. degrees, then settled into marriage and a teaching job in Elyria.
The sights and sounds of the Cuyahoga River Valley run throughout his poems -- the well-traveled roads and private wooded paths, the family and friends who work and love and die there. "Of course," Suarez says, "one must not assume that what I have written about my family or friends is true. Like the speaker I create for each poem, the people I mention are only persona whom the poem needs to accomplish what it will."
His contemplations on varied relationships often have the speaker ask questions. "Sometimes I think asking is the very best we can hope for," he says. "Asking reminds me how vulnerable and ignorant we are. Belief allows us to function day by day, but it is doubt that enlarges us and our universe."
This is a notion Bill Mathews focused on in his review of Losses of Moment, Suarez's chapbook published by Kent State University in 1995, when he wrote: "What we see by means of these carefully made poems is not something like knowledge, but something both stranger and more familiar: a map of our puzzlement and wonder."
Suarez's passion for intricate layers of meaning and complex questions emerges in Ask and Traveler, making them collections that elaborate on trust, uncertainty, and possibility. "My poems bow to the incomprehensible at the same time that they try, because of our need to live in this world, to make momentary sense of it," Suarez explains. "This is the human road we walk. We don't know where we are or where we’re going, but, damn it to hell, we’re on our way."
Lou Suarez is Professor Emeritus at Lorain County Community College and resides in Sheffield Lake, Ohio.
Author photo: Debby Suarez and Manny Suarez