Earlier this month I had the unique opportunity to attend the annual AWP Conference in Boston. Hailing from the perpetually sunny San Diego, my fingers, toes and nose were unprepared for a snowy smackdown. Luckily, the conference was held indoors and heated by the bodies of 11,999 fellow book nerds.
In the days leading up to the conference, I had been drooling over the extensive list of panels and readings to the point of starvation. After an anxious breakfast of French toast and powdered eggs at our hostel, I finally decided to just let my feet take the reigns. I couldn’t be happier that I did.
I met up with a few friends at the conference, and we began wandering through the overwhelming maze of books until we somehow ended up at a musical reading featuring Cornelius Eady and his new chapbook, Book of Hooks. I had heard of Cornelius Eady before, but was unfamiliar with his work. It turns out that he is both a wonderful poet and talented musician.
Eady began by introducing the concept of his new chapbook, which actually comes in two volumes, each accompanied by a CD of the poems set to music. Eady had always wanted to release an album, so he began by writing lyrics (poems), which he then sent out to various musician friends to write music for the poems. This largely telecommunicated project resulted in a beautiful collection of songs. After the explanation, Eady’s performance commenced with the accompaniment of a badass violinist, whiz-bang guitarist and poet-friend Robin Messing’s majestic vocals.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the beginning, but the combination of pure poetic lyricism bolstered by jazzy tunes proved to be more than entertaining. The music was dead-on with the poetry, but sounded as if it was all improvisation. The musicians were feeding off the lips of Eady just has he grooved his body and voice to every twang.
When we had first sat down for the reading there were maybe ten other people in the audience. By the end of the performance, Eady and company had thrown down such a mad show that there wasn’t a seat open, and people were standing in the back tapping their feet. Never had I seen such a lively poetry reading, and couldn’t wait to see what awaited me in the next couple days of the conference.
You can purchase the two-volume Book of Hooks from Kattywompus Press.