Born on January 7, 1954, Cornelius Eady was raised in Rochester, New York. He attended Monroe Community College and Empire State College.
Eady is the author of several collections of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008); Brutal Imagination (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001), which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry; The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; and Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), which was chosen by Louise Glück, Charles Simic, and Philip Booth for the 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets.
In 1996, Eady and the poet Toi Derricotte 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 Derricotte, 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.
Eady 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.
Eady’s 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. In 2023, he received the Pegasus Award for Service in Poetry, alongside Derricotte.
Eady has served as director of the Poetry Center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, City College of New York, The Writer’s Voice, William & Mary, and Sweet Briar College. He was the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing and a professor of English and theater at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Eady is currently a professor in the MFA program at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton.