Saturday, March 10, 2018


Cane / Jean Toomer, 245 p.

 A classic of the Harlem Renaissance, Cane is a wonderfully weird combination of prose, poetry, drama and song, which evokes small-town rural Georgia in the 1920s with a gorgeous vividness.  The writing, in all forms, is sensual - that is, it constructs the setting in a way that incorporates all the senses, almost as if the reader could taste the air. 

Difficult to summarize, the work incorporates the author's experiences as a light-skinned urban northerner who moves to Georgia to teach.  One of the members of our Classics Book Group observed correctly, I think, that the poetry is especially strong, as in "Her Lips Are Copper Wire:"

whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp-posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog

and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes

telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate

(her words play softly up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)

then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent

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