This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Cane, Jean Toomer
This book of Toomer’s writings was at times beautiful and at times incomprehensible (to me), but overall it’s a good choice for Georgia on the 50Nifty list. Toomer’s descriptions of the Georgia cane fields and workers captures the feel of the place, and while the entire book does not take place there, it’s a common thread through much of the poetry and prose in the collection, so the underlying theme carries it. The book is primarily several character-centric poems or short stories which allow the reader a glimpse into the interior lives of the characters.
Interspersed throughout are some rich descriptions of the land and life in the South. One of my favorite poems from the book was “Storm Ending”:
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . .
Bitten by the sun
Dripping rain like golden honey–
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.
I loved how the image of flowers captures the thunder in a way I’d never thought of before but can imagine through Toomer’s words. (It makes me look forward to some great summer thunderstorms in another few months.)
Overall, this book was not my favorite in the list, but that likely has more to do with my impatience with poetry and the perceived lack of flow I felt than the actual writing, which was often beautiful. If I had taken more time to savor some of these poems and stories, I think I would have liked it more.
(Thanks for your patience with the delay on the 50Nifty post this week – at the very last minute I was offered a free ticket to “Two Trains Running” by August Wilson at the Goodman Theatre so I obviously had to scratch blogging and take advantage of it. It was a really good show that was alternately hilarious and thought-provoking.)