Cornelius Eady


Poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, Cornelius Eady has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry, among them Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name (1991), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Brutal Imagination (2001), a National Book Award finalist. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2008. Eady also collaborated with Diedre Murray on a libretto for a roots opera, Running Man, based on his poems, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Music is a central theme of Eady’s work, along with family and the challenges unique to the African American experience. In You Don’t Miss Your Water (1995), a prose-poem cycle of elegies for Eady’s father, traditional song titles—blues songs, mainly, but also jazz and rock ’n’ roll—become the titles of his poems. Eady has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Fund. In 1996 Eady and poet Toi Derricote founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization that supports emerging African American poets through a summer retreat, regional workshops, a first-book prize, annual anthologies, and events and readings across the country. Source

The Racist Bone

I know this is a real thing, because

When I was a kid, my big sister took me

To the Capitol Theater, in my hometown

Of Rochester, NY,


And there was a movie that afternoon,

The Tingler, which starred Vincent Price,

And what I remember best about the film

Was that it was about this extra, insect-like gland, that


We all appeared to have been born with,

But nobody but sci-fi movie scientists knew about.

If it wasn’t fed properly, it would crawl up

Your leg, and choke you to death with its claws!


Your only hope was if you saw it coming, and knew

What it was, you could scream—loud.

Which we did, when it crawled across the screen.

Then the lights blacked out, and Vincent Price


Shouted it had skittered off the screen, hungry—which it hadn’t;

The Capitol was the Black movie house—25 cents a seat,

The last drop of profit squeezed from the theatrical run.

No need to pull Mr. Castle’s hokey string and rubber model


Down the aisle for the likes of us.

In our heads The Tingler scurried, our darkest screams,

The horror we know, but won’t talk about,

From the mouth of the corpse


Like a weevil, looking for a home.

So many characters perished

In that movie—they never believed they had it in them

Until those pincers closed.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Memory & The Past

Pop Culture

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem