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Cornelius Eady Biography | Poet

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Cornelius Eady is an American poet focusing largely on matters of race and society, particularly the trials of the African-American race in the United States. His poetry often centers around jazz and blues, family life, violence, and societial problems stemming from questions of race and class. His poetry is often praised for its simple and approachable language.


Cornelius Eady was born in 1954 in Rochester, New York and is a publisher of seven volumes of poetry. In most of Eady’s poems, there is a musical quality drawn from the Blues and Jazz. His first book of poetry, Kartunes, was published in 1980, with several books of poetry following it. Recently awarded honors include the Strousse Award from Prairie Schooner, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, and individual Fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Eady has also recently collaborated with jazz composer Deidre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don't Miss Your Water, Running Man, Fangs, and Brutal Imagination. In 1996, Eady and fellow poet Toi Derricote founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization for black poets. Cornelius Eady has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, The Writer's Voice, The College of William and Mary, and Sweet Briar College. Formerly an associate professor of English and Director of the Poetry Center at State University of New York at Stony Brook and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the City College of New York, Eady currently lives in South Bend, Indiana with his wife, novelist Sarah Micklem, and is on the faculty of the Creative Writing MFA program at Notre Dame University.


Cornelius Eady's most recent collection of poetry, Brutal Imagination (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001) was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry. He is also the author of Kartunes (Warthog Press, 1980); Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize of the Academy of American Poets; BOOM, BOOM, BOOM: A Chapbook (1988); The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon, 1991), a nominee for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; You Don't Miss Your Water (Henry Holt, 1995); and the autobiography of a jukebox (Carnegie Mellon, 1997).

One of his most popular works, Eady’s book Brutal Imagination (2001) is comprised of two cycles of poems, each confronting the same subject: the black man in white America. The first cycle, which carries the book’s title, is narrated largely by the “imaginary black man that Susan Smith blamed for kidnapping her two children when in fact she had strapped her babies into the back of their family car and pushed the car into John D. Long Lake and let them drown. It took nine days for the authorities to break her story—the FBI and the sheriff to break her story—and so the premise is that for those nine days, that man is alive and walking among us, and it's a big what if: What if he could talk? What if he had the ability to speak? What would he have told us?” [1]

The second cycle, “Running Man,” focuses on the African-American family and the barriers of color and class. The title character represents every African-American male who has crashed into these barriers.

Cornelius Eady: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes

Book: Shattered Sighs