About this poet

Born on January 7, 1954, Cornelius Eady was raised in Rochester, New York. 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). In 2016, she and Eady accepted the National Book Foundation's Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community on behalf of Cave Canem.

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.

Sherbet

The problem here is that
This isn’t pretty, the
Sort of thing that

Can easily be dealt with
With words. After
All it’s

A horror story to sit,
A black man with
A white wife in

The middle of a hot
Sunday afternoon in
The Jefferson Hotel in

Richmond, Va., and wait
Like a criminal for service
From a young white waitress

Who has decided that
This looks like something
She doesn’t want

To be a part of. What poetry
Could describe the
Perfect angle of

This woman’s back as
She walks, just so,
Mapping the room off

Like the end of a
Border dispute, which
Metaphor could turn

The room more perfectly
Into a group of
Islands? And when

The manager finally
Arrives, what language
Do I use

To translate the nervous
Eye motions, the yawning
Afternoon silence, the

Prayer beneath
His simple inquiries,
The sherbet which

He then brings to the table personally,
Just to be certain
The doubt

Stays on our side
Of the fence? What do
We call the rich,

Sweet taste of
Frozen oranges in
This context? What do

We call a weight that
Doesn’t fingerprint,
Won’t shift,

And can’t explode?

From The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991). Copyright © 1991 by Cornelius Eady. Used with the permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

From The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991). Copyright © 1991 by Cornelius Eady. Used with the permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.