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Wed, 04.14.1954

Cornelius Eady, Poet, and Publisher born

Cornelius Eady

*The birth of Cornelius Eady in 1954 is celebrated on this date. He is a Black poet, writer, and publisher.

Born in Rochester, New York, Eady is the author of several books of poetry and two librettos. Praised for his approachable and simple language, Eady captures the emotional vulnerability of life in a clean, elegant style.  He has received several awards for his poetry, including the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation.

Never diverting his attention from the African American experience, Eady addresses the vision of the Black man in white imagination with what Booklist calls "tremendous verve, drama, compassion, and insight." His first book of poetry, Kartunes, was published in 1980. Subsequent books include Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets, The Gathering of My Name, nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize; You Don't Miss Your Water, and The Autobiography of a Jukebox. His book, titled Brutal Imagination, is narrated largely by the Black kidnapper invented by Susan Smith to cover up the killing of her two young sons.

In 1996, Eady and the poet Toi Derricotte founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving Black poets of various backgrounds and acting as a safe space for intellectual engagement and critical debate.  Widely anthologized, Eady has also collaborated with composer Diedre Murray to write two music dramas, You Don't Miss Your Water and Running Man, a 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist.  Described as "the heir of Langston Hughes" by The Southern Review, much of Eady's work celebrates Harlem, offering, as Leslie Ullman writes, "brief glimpses of urban life, meditations to jazz and blues music, and a quiet, crystalline sort of anger." His poems also address the experiences of the African American family threatened by barriers of color and class. Brighde Mullins declares Eady's work to be "joyous, incantatory, experiential. Verbal-visual kinesis radiates from his … poems."

Eady has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, The Writer's Voice, the 92nd St. Y, The College of William and Mary, and Sweet Briar College. He is a former Associate Professor of English and Director of the Poetry Center at SUNY Stony Brook. Eady was Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the City College of New York. Along with Derricote, he also edited Gathering Ground (University of Michigan Press, 2006). He currently lives in Columbia, MO, where he holds the Miller Chair in Poetry at the University of Missouri.

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