Monday, September 11, 2017



Conflict by Angelo V. Suárez
(Gauss PDF, 2017)

Is the author Angelo V. Suárez sheepish? If so, I’m happy to “buy” his epigraphs that intellectualize his version of the Harlequin Romance, his new book-length poem Conflict.  Said epigraphs say

Debord: [I]t sometimes happens that the transition to the media provides the cover for several different enterprises, officially independent but in fact secretly linked by various ad hoc networks. With the result that occasionally the social division of labor, along with the foreseeable unity of its application, reappears in quite new forms: for example, one can now publish a novel in order to arrange an assassination.

Lazzarato: [I]t is never an individual who thinks, never an individual who creates. An individual who thinks and creates does so within a network of institutions (schools, theaters, museums, libraries, etc.), technologies (books, electronic networks, computers, etc.), and sources of public and private financing; an individual immersed in traditions of thought and aesthetic practices—engulfed in a circulation of signs, ideas, and tasks—that force him or her to think and create.

Marxist theorist Guy Debord. Philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato. Suárez need not have quoted them to make his point about how he created Conflict. But it helps bolster his, what, … reputation? creds? our (if not his) sanity? … for what we will read when we get to his poem. Sure, to be fair, the epigraphs are appropriate given how Suarez made Conflict. Briefly, Suárez's day job is in marketing and Conflict is a poem that resulted from his presenting various drafts of a serial novella to market cheese. He describes all this in a foreword entitled “I did it for the money” since the project was a freelance gig.

There are other serious matters raised by the project, as described in Suárez’s foreword, and if you want to be serious go ahead and read it for yourself. I, for one, having just read his poem before beginning this review, am instead compelled to go directly to the poem. I call it his version of a Harlequin Romance because of such lines as

And indeed it’s love what these pancakes are ready for, plump and fluffy right out of the pan, their surface like skin begging for contact. He touches one, his fingers sliding across its warmth, smooth like thighs waiting to be parted. He pokes, pushing his finger further in till he feels the fervid flesh of its interior—hot. Soft. Damp. Then with a quick flick of the wrist he flips each of them to a plate, lying flat on the porcelain, like a body preparing itself for a lover’s ministrations. He defiles the pristine brown of its surface, smearing it with whipped cream, and beside it readies the compote.


Reverie takes over, as well the imagined scent of a kitchen brimming with romance. He recalls her emerging from the shower in a bathrobe, catching him make his compote, bringing to a simmer some wine, some vanilla, some anise, some salt and pepper—then sugar, pears, and water. A mixture as syrupy as the song on the vinyl player then—“Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys—as sweet as how he had wanted their day to start. Separately, he combined milk, melted butter, egg. In her gaze, the ingredients crashed into each other like bodies under the blanket, the bowl a bed of excitement.

Or (it’s hard to stop excerpting):

He readies his pastry sheets with more melted butter into a baking pan, and spoons in the spinach filling. He spoons with much generosity, every spoonful brimming; he spoons with much love, every spoonful flowing. In his mind he spoons with Isabel on the kitchen counter in the afternoon swelter, as they had been wont to do as well when they felt like being naughty but didn’t feel like anything more than a clothed snuggle. He folds in the edges of pastry, tucks in the edges of another sheet he folds and presses on top, sealing the romance within. As he waits for it to bake, he hopes to pull out of the oven not just food but a key to her acceptance of him. This pie was key: this was her key pie, awaiting a mouth to savor it—nibble by moist nibble, chomp by sticky chomp.

(a sample Harlequin Romance book cover)

Here’s an excerpt that’s not related to cuisine but which I’m compelled—compelled!—to include just for that phrase about the 24 inches of maleness:

…upon opening it, Cristiano finds the remains of an old relationship, now moved on to an afterlife, after love: a pile of love letters, yellowed mildly by the years, compiled by thin rope; a teddy bear the size of a toddler, patches of it now going bald; a 24-inch toy replica of the human anatomy, male, with felt-tip scribbling on the thigh, “hug this if you miss me,” barely legible; some clothes, all his; a variety of books, from novels to gonzo journalism, some comics, mostly cookbooks; even a small desk fan, of which he has fond memories, once providing what little breeze it could muster, aimed at the heated ministrations taking place in bed.

Are we having a good time yet? More, you ask, nay, plead? I’m compassionate. Here: the skillet of her mouth his tongue melts like so much butter.

As well, this which, bluntly, will never again make me take lasagna for granted:

When he pulls the lasagna out of the oven, a fog of excitement hijacks his senses. The exuberance of hot cheese, delightfully burnt in patches, emits a fragrance he can almost taste. His grasp firm around the handle of the knife, he carves into his creation deep—its flesh parting succulent- ly as his pointed implement penetrates, further and further, an endless penetration—till its opening lets out a moist sigh, fragrant steam, juice of meat crashing with the juice of melted cheese. Layers upon layers of cheese.

One should say that an Oulipian constraint (as Suárez aptly notes) is the necessary incorporation of the merits of cheese into the ad copy/serial marketing novella turned poem. Thus, passages swim to the top of this overheated stew like

He recalls his arm brushing against Isabel’s, and proceeds to brush the flesh side of the fish with oil. He presses a cheese mixture onto the salmon—a combination of Perfect Italiano Romano, thyme, paprika, and seasoning—the way he had wished he could press his body against hers once again.

as well as this passage I highlight because I’m quite charmed by the reference to those al dente arms:

As Cristiano takes some, he notices the firmness of the noodles. Not bad, he tells his friend. Al dente like his arms, like his conviction to get Isabel back into his life. But his satisfaction breaks when he tastes it—Okay, he continues telling Pocholo, it’s not bad, but it needs more cheese. Do you still have some of that Parmesan I recommended to you? I knew you’d say that, Pocholo replies, so I made sure to have it ready. He walks to the kitchen, then comes back holding a bag of Perfect Italiano Parmesan.

Similarly, and elsewhere, this sentence about the protagonist’s desire to get the girl Isabel:

His conviction, like noodles, is once again as it should be—al dente.

which moves me to this aside: great palates understand that the best noodles are al dente, a balancing act whose nuance might escape those boors preferring meat to be well-done (don’t tell Drumpf). Anyway, …

Anyway, actually: now that I got those excerpts out of my now over-heated and starving system, I’ll revert to some seriousness. Behind the laughter, the project does pose important questions about labor, authorship, the degradation of language, reductive assessments for audience (something also applicable to the Harlequin Romance series), and how not to die from soul-pinching jobs, among others. Here, Suárez shows where his loyalty lies (pun intended) when faced with Money Vs. Poetry. (Laying himself open to risks related to repurposing intellectual property hopefully will not end up burning him like hot cheese against the palate). Conflict, here, is not only what happens as Cristiano attempts to win over Isabel. Conflict arises from a capitalist greed that goes well beyond the glutton's desire for the Perfect Italiano Parmesan. For the fortitude of his convictions, Suárez deserves a party.

Specifically, there should be a party where much cheese in its many forms is served and where the partygoers take turns reading from Suárez’s poem.  The latter will ensure there’ll be no conflict about whether folks will have had a fun time. Until such time, go read what this poet wrote for money.  It’s serious, and a serious hoot!  Conflict is one reason Suárez is among my favorite contemporary conceptual artists.

P.S. Wait, wait!  One more excerpt:

The morning is tender as the onions Cristiano cooks and pours the egg- and-cheese mixture over.


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include four books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. Most recently, she released MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press) and Love in a Time of Belligerence (Editions du Cygne/SWAN World). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere for recent reviews of her work: T.C.. Marshall reviews MANHATTAN for The FilAm Magazine while Joey Madia reviews it for New Mystics Reviews. Her books have been released in nine countries and cyberspace. More info about her work at


  1. Without meaning to be a cheese connoisseur or rat, I found the foreword the only thing of interest--which has been the trouble with conceptual art two decades ago. I didn't read the entire book: I do not need to read it: the project smacks of A+ and Suarez is exemplary, congratualations. But I entertain his engagement of the others he has involved, although the authorship of the work will then be a question. That part, I am not sure he has thought through.

  2. In other words, the work of a disciple.

  3. You might say, "he knows it", but understand that the book does away with any notion of responsibility. Now how could I possibly go with that idea?

  4. True, one ends up wanting to eat cheese--some similes you quoted are delicious. And yet, it's just not asiago, so no but thank you.

  5. In case you wondered, yes, I find a lot of K Goldsmith problematic, too. And damn me if I ever attempt to stop any artistic production.

  6. Marc, I hope you’ve gone back to work which no one has suggested you stop. Meanwhile, for me, any crit of a book one has not read is mere potshot … not that I intend to darken the pot’s reputation (sorry, couldn’t resist). As for CA or not? It’s a matter of taste. For me, I love both parmesan and asiago.

    Besides, I didn’t delve into all that’s good about the book. The book, in and of itself, is its own art form. And the transformation of a serial novella posted online into a single book generates elements not available in the prior format. There are some rubs linguistically, spatially, scale-wise. energy/momentum-wise that IMO indeed turn this project into a poem, not just a recycled ad campaign. I didn’t go into these factors in my review because, generally, I don’t like to tell people what poetry—and art—is. But feel free to let me know; I’m a great listener… and reader.
    P.S. Keny who?

  7. Eileen, I'm not the reviewer. I commented on the foreword, which I read.