From Publishers Weekly
This first career-spanning selection confirms Eady as a likable, if self-conscious, poet of uncommon variety, with a gift for the spoken vernacular. Since his 1980 debut, Eady has evoked the dilemmas of poetic vocation and the harsher dilemmas of race and poverty: "No rules, except for/ What's always been:/ Do what you gotta do." His short, jagged lines take up the legacy of the Black Arts poets, though his sensibility is less violent, his humor quieter, his sense of his social position more ironic: one mid-career poem even bears the title "Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?" By the 1990s Eady could set his sense of responsibility to African-American history against his joy in music and in his own art. His best book, You Don't Miss Your Water (1995), gathered clear, forceful prose poems that reacted to his father's death. Brutal Imagination (2001) adopted the voice of the nonexistent black kidnapper made up by the homicidal mother Susan Smith to explain her children's disappearance. New poems of marital love and domesticity, though not Eady's most original, come as needed leavening. This is a fine introduction to Eady's worthy oeuvre.
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Eady, a poet of prestigious accomplishments, writes of the ironies and injustices of life in general and African American life in particular with dramatic intensity, as in Brutal Imagination (2001). But he is also devilishly funny, his scintillating jazz lines recounting hard knocks and heartache with grace and élan. The full range of Eady’s musical and quicksilver poems is covered here in selections from six previous collections, beginning with Kartunes (1980); a previously unpublished manuscript, which includes the wry and furious “Atomic Prayer”; and a set of laser-sharp yet lushly nuanced new poems. “White Couch” is a brilliant and hilarious allegory in which a couple endures urban insanity to claim the unlikeliest of treasures left on a New York curb. A series of poems about acquiring an old house upstate reveals much about our dream of sanctuary and life’s perpetual undermining of all that we cling to. Musings on the fall of the towers and war, deaths in the family, and cancer are balanced by moments of joy in the garden: “A desk lamp spilling light from my window.” --Donna Seaman