Cornelius Eady’s unique contribution to this generation of black poets lies as much in his founding of the black poets’ workshop Cave Canem with Toi Derricotte in 1996 as in his poetry. He has written seven volumes of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (2008). He won the 1985 Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, and his musical theater piece, Running Man, cowritten with musician Deidre Murray, was a 1999 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Eady is currently an associate professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame.
Eady was born in Rochester, New York, in 1954. He received a ba in English from Empire State College and published his first book of poetry, Kartunes, in 1980. He attended Warren Wilson’s MFA program during the 1985–86 academic year but left without the degree for reasons we discuss in the interview. He has been married to Sarah Micklem, a novelist, for thirty years. Eady experienced a health challenge in 2004–05 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer; he received treatment and has since recovered.
Eady’s poetry draws upon the traditions of jazz and blues; The Autobiography of a Jukebox (1997) contains Dreaming in Hi-Fi, a CD of songs written and performed by Eady. His poems fuse music and the realities of black male identity in a racist society. His is not a formalist aesthetic: rather, Eady’s lines are rhythmic, as if spoken or sung, and storytelling narratives predominate in his poems. Eady relies not so much on imagery or symbolism, but rather on a direct, grounded lyricism. He places his poetry in a lineage from Etheridge Knight.
Despite a host of enthusiastic reviews of his books, literary criticism has neglected to investigate Eady’s work, with only one critical analysis published to date, perhaps because his poetry is accessible and doesn’t appear to need interpretation to aid the reader’s understanding. Yet his work is powerful and honest. The volume Brutal Imagination, which contains two