Read Cornelius Eady’s no-nonsense poems and you will notice the influence of the cadences of blues and jazz. You will recognize or learn to empathize with the struggles. Listen to Eady read his poems and you will hear the music. You will witness the unflinching social commentary. You might feel like he is someone you have always known.
Mary Baldwin College students, faculty, staff, and the public will have the chance to listen when Eady presents on campus October 29 as the college’s 2008–09 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar. Eady, associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program at University of Notre Dame, will intersperse excerpts from his poems into a narrative of his life, describing how his work ss a writer expanded into teaching, theatrical collaboration, and the co-founding of the national poets organization Cave Canem. Reflecting MBC’s annual theme, Maps, Eady’s self-introduction is titled “Mapping the Muse: A Poet’s Journey,” according to MBC Professor of English Rick Plant, who is coordinating his visit.
“Eady offers an inspiring example of a writer who is thoughtfully engaged with the world around him,” said Plant. “That sense of a writer-in-the-world shows up not only in his poems, but also in the scores of young writers he has mentored.” Plant remembers Eady’s visit to MBC more than a decade ago when he “won over our students with his energy and his encouraging demeanor — not to mention his red sneakers and enormous warm smile.”
The Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar brings distinguished professionals and scholars in visual and literary arts to MBC, providing learning opportunities for the college and the community. The program was created by friends and family of the late Elizabeth K. “Liddy” Doenges ’63.
Eady, a native of Rochester, New York, is often categorized as a poet who writes about the African-American perspective, but his images, dialogue, and subjects employ universal themes and situations. Music, family, race, and even poetry itself are explored in his sensitive voice. A voice that, according to a review by Blue Flower Arts, is “intelligent and elegant yet informed by street idiom, angry but never didactic.”
Eady is the author of six books of poetry and his work has appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies. Recognition for his writing is extensive, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, among others. Theatrical adaptations of some of Eady’s most widely known pieces, You Don’t Miss Your Water, Running Man, and Brutal Imagination have been performed in New York City venues and earned critical acclaim.
Eady, who resides in Indiana, will be back on campus in 2009 to lead a May Term course, the second component of Mary Baldwin’s Doenges program. Although the specifics of his course have yet to be worked out, Eady is no stranger to the classroom; he has taught at SUNY Stony Brook, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, The College of William and Mary, and Sweet Briar College, among others.
And if you just can’t wait to hear Eady’s infectious, unhurried, baritone voice, listen to him read I’m a Fool to Love You at www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15244.
This article orignially appeared in the October 7, 2008 issue of The Cupola
Photo by Chip Cooper