March 1, 2007AWP Conference, AtlantaFrom the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born on January 7, 1954, Cornelius Eady was raised in Rochester, New York, in 1954. He attended Monroe Community College and Empire State College.

He is the author of Hardheaded Weather (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008); Brutal Imagination (2001), which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry; the autobiography of a jukebox (1997); You Don't Miss Your Water (1995); The Gathering of My Name (1991), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; BOOM BOOM BOOM (1988); Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), which was chosen by Louise Glück, Charles Simic, and Philip Booth for the 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and Kartunes (1980).

In 1996, Eady and the poet Toi Derricote founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving black poets of various backgrounds and acting as a safe space for intellectual engagement and critical debate. Along with Derricote, he also edited Gathering Ground (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

He has collaborated with jazz composer Deidre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don't Miss Your Water; Running Man, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999; Fangs, and Brutal Imagination, which received Newsday's Oppenheimer Award in 2002.

About his work, the poet June Jordan has said, "Cornelius Eady leads and then cuts a line like no one else: following the laughter and the compassionate pith of a dauntless imagination, these poems beeline or zig-zag always to the jugular, the dramatic and unarguable revelation of the heart."

His honors include the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

He has served as director of the Poetry Center at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, City College of New York, The Writer's Voice, The College of William and Mary, and Sweet Briar College.

He currently lives in Columbia, MO, where he holds the Miller Chair in Poetry at University of Missouri.

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From the Image Archive

 

I'm A Fool To Love You

Cornelius Eady, 1954
Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don't want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That's how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it's the only leverage
You've got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man's kisses 
A healing.

From Autobiography of a Jukebox by Cornelius Eady. Used with permission.

Cornelius Eady

Cornelius Eady

Born in 1954, in Rochester, New York, Cornelius Eady is the co-founder of Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving black poets

by this poet

poem
The trouble is, you can never take
That flower from Billie's hair.
She is always walking too fast
and try as we might,

there's no talking her into slowing.
Don't go down into that basement,
we'd like to scream. What will it take
to bargain her blues,

To retire that term when it comes
to her? But the grain and