Cornelius Eady (born 1954) is an American writer focusing largely on matters of race and society. His poetry often centers on jazz and blues, family life, violence, and societal problems stemming from questions of race and class. His poetry is often praised for its simple and approachable language.

Cornelius Eady
Reading at Folger Shakespeare Library, 2014
Born1954 (age 69–70)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Literary movementCo-founded Cave Canem Foundation



Cornelius Eady was born in Rochester, New York, and is an author of seven volumes of poetry. In most of Eady's poems, there is a musical quality drawn from the Blues and Jazz.

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,[1] and the National Endowment for the Arts.[2]

Eady has also recently collaborated with jazz composer Deirdre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don't Miss Your Water, Running Man, Fangs, and Brutal Imagination. Eady's work also appears in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.[3]

In 1996, Eady and fellow poet Toi Derricotte founded Cave Canem Foundation, a nonprofit organization for black poets.[4]

Eady has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, The Writer's Voice, The College of William and Mary, University of Notre Dame, 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, as well as the Miller Chair in Poetry at University of Missouri.[5] Currently he lives in Knoxville, TN, where he serves as the Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.[6] He is married to novelist Sarah Micklem.



Eady's first book of poetry, Kartunes, was published in 1980, with several books of poetry following it. He is also the author of Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, which won the 1985 Lamont Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets; BOOM, BOOM, BOOM: A Chapbook (1988); The Gathering of My Name; You Don't Miss Your Water; and the autobiography of a jukebox (Carnegie Mellon, 1997). Eady's most recent collection of poetry, Brutal Imagination, was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry.

One of his most popular works, Eady's book Brutal Imagination (2001) comprises 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— 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?"[7]

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.


  • Kartunes. West Orange, N.J.: Warthog Press. 1980.
  • Victims of the Latest Dance Craze: Poems, Ommation Press, 1986, ISBN 9780941240024; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997, ISBN 9780887482540
  • BOOM, BOOM, BOOM: A Chapbook, State Street Press, 1988
  • The Gathering of My Name, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991, ISBN 9780887481154
  • You Don't Miss Your Water: Poems, Henry Holt, 1995, ISBN 9780805036688; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004, ISBN 9780887484162
  • The Autobiography of a Jukebox: Poems, Carnegie Mellon Press, 1997; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007, ISBN 9780887484704
  • Brutal Imagination: Poems. G. P. Putnam's Sons. 2001. ISBN 9781101143575.
  • Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems. Penguin. 2008. ISBN 9780399154850.
  • The War Against the Obvious, Jacar Press, ISBN 978-0-936481-27-2

List of poems

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Emmett Till's glass–top casket 2020 Eady, Cornelius (July 27, 2020). "Emmett Till's glass–top casket". The New Yorker. Vol. 96, no. 21. p. 27.


  1. ^ "Cornelius Eady - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
  2. ^ "Cornelius Eady | Poetry Foundation". 4 October 2022.
  3. ^ "Cornelius Eady, Blackbird".
  4. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "About Cornelius Eady | Academy of American Poets".
  5. ^ "Cornelius Eady - Blue Flower Arts".
  6. ^ "Cornelius Eady". Department of English. 9 March 2023. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  7. ^ "Cornelius Eady, Blackbird".