Poet Captivates Writers House

The Daily Pennsylvanian

From the moment he walked in, poet Cornelius Eady captivated the Kelly Writers House audience with his unruly dred-locked hair, melodic voice and lemon yellow Converse All-Stars.

In his Friday visit, Eady brought stories of his late father, a train ride and piggy banks -- as well as volumes of acclaimed poetry.

Author of five books of poetry, including The Gathering of My Name, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze and The Autobiography of a Jukebox, Eady has received several awards and fellowships, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Victims was the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1985 and The Gathering was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

College junior Holly Johnson opened the reading with selections from her own poetry before College junior Karina Zappia introduced Eady, whom she had studied as part of a Writers House-coordinated class designed to study writers invited to the facility.

English Professor and Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis, who teaches the class, explained that Eady's reading was just part of "the writing scene that Writers House is creating."

"You could really visualize the relationship he had with his father ... he was an awesome reader," Zappia noted after the reading.

Opening his presentation with a story of his morning trip to Philadelphia, Eady described his excitement in encountering a box of free love poetry on the train before reading his own love poem entitled "Gratitude."

Alongside his rhythmically-stilted voice, Eady's closed eyes, lightly tapping feet and swaying body characterized much of the poet's unique style of reading.

Eady read selections from his most recently published poetry -- a book entitled You Don't Miss Your Water -- focusing on the death of his father, and interspersed anecdotes about his parent.

"I wouldn't be here as a writer if it wasn't for my father," Eady said. "He was a great storyteller."

Eady painted a vivid picture of the toothless disheveled man that inspired much of his work, often telling of his father's many eccentric habits.

"He was always one of those fathers who was wondering when you're going to get a job," joked Eady, who currently teaches and directs the Poetry Center at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

And College of General Studies student Kristen Gallagher described Eady as "moving" and quoted her favorite line -- "my greatest weakness is an inability to sustain rage" -- from Eady's poem "Gratitude."