Friday, January 7, 2011

I am a reaper

(1923, Liveright)

Published in the same year as William Carlos Williams' Spring and All and Wallace Stevens' Harmonium, Jean Toomer's Cane is rarely mentioned in the American discourse on the development of Modernism in poetry. Gilles Deleuze considers Toomer's magnum opus a work of the rhizosphere, along with Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, William James, W.E.B. Du Bois to name some--minor works of the American Canon perhaps attributable to the author's relation to American history. We can hardly consider these works minor today. Evincing the oft-misused expression--the times are changing. Cane has just been reprinted in a (much loved) Norton Critical Edition with a fascinating new study by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Toomer's work can no longer be ignored. His personal assertions of a liminal identity have resurfaced as an important topic of American consciousness.

Cane is American Music is Black Music is Future Language is Today's Language.
You feel it or you don't. Either way, someone, somewhere is singing a black music. Young Iran, for example.

-Andrew E. Colarusso

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