Brutal Imagination is made up of two cycles of poems, each confronting the same subject: the black man in white America.
The first cycle, which carries the book's title, deals with the vision of the black man in white imagination. Narrated largely by the black kidnapper invented by Susan Smith to cover up the killing of her two small sons, it displays Eady's stunning range: his deft wit, inventiveness, and skillfully targeted anger, as well as his talent for combining the subtle with the charged, street idiom with elegant inversions, harsh images with the sweetly ordinary.
The second cycle, "Running Man," presents poems Eady drew on for his libretto for the music-drama of the same name, which was a 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist. The focus here is the black family and the barriers of color, class, and caste that tear it apart, and the title character represents every dreaming black boy who ever crashed into the limits set by the white world as he reached manhood. As The Village Voice wrote, "It is a hymn to all the sons this country has stolen from her African-American families."
Taken together, the two cycles offer a stark reappraisal of race in America. They are the work of a poet at the peak of his considerable powers.
If the poet's premise...is complex, his verse is unsettlingly direct.