Cane: A New Critical Edition

A girl in the yard of a whitewashed shack not much larger than the stack of worn ties piled before it, sings. Her voice is loud. Echoes, like rain, sweep the valley. Dusk takes the polish from the rails. Lights twinkle in scattered houses. From far away, a sad strong song. Pungent and composite, the smell of farmyards is the fragrance of the woman. She does not sing; her body is a song. She is in the forest, dancing. Torches flare…juju men, greegree, witch-doctors…torches go out…The Dixie Pike has grown from a goat path in Africa.

– from Cane by Jean Toomer1923/2023

“Time and space have no meaning in a canefield.”


100 years after its original publication in 1923, we have asked, What is the new edition of Jean Toomer’s enigmatic classic that we need today and what is a critical edition for this moment? What old ways of knowing can we learn from this book, and what new ways of thinking can we employ to perceive it and ourselves?

In celebration of Cane’s 100th anniversary, we are assembling Black thinkers and makers from across and between creative and scholarly disciplines to wonder at the book’s cosmology, to propose, speculate and imagine our place in the canefield, and to offer their insights as invitations to readers in the form of prompts, gestures, questions…calls to respond, each presented on a card, paired with a quote from Cane and an emblematic image.

Cane: A New Critical Edition is more than a repackaging of Toomer’s work with updated theory and analysis.

We present this critical edition–this necessary alternative–as an unbound invitation to readers to move with Cane‘s movements, to employ its imaginative technologies, to be with its phenomena. Included in this boxed set will be our lovingly laid out and bound reprinting of the book itself, accompanied by the deck of 60 cards and a booklet that indexes the cards to the patterns of thought and image at play in the book. 

Use the cards as tools for insight into Cane, for creative inspiration, for divination, for bibliomancy, as portals out of ordinary time and into the canefield. 

This project is shepherded by Diane Exavier, Carlos Sirah and Anne de Marcken. 

Diane Exavier is a writer, theatermaker, and educator. Intersecting performance and poetry, her work has been presented at The Flea Theater, Sibiu’s International Theater Festival in Romania, Bowery Poetry Club, Dixon Place, and more. She is author of the chapbook Teaches of Peaches, and of the full-length poetry collection The Math of Saint Felix, published by The 3rd Thing in 2021.

Carlos Sirah is a writer and performer from the Mississippi Delta. His work encounters exile, rupture, displacement, and migration. A 2017-2018 Lambda Literary Fellow, Playwrights Center Core Apprentice, and recent Millay Colony fellow, he is author of The High Alive: An Epic Hoodoo Diptych, published by 3rd in 2020. 

Anne de Marcken is Editor and Publisher at The 3rd Thing, which she founded in 2019. Her credits include multimedia installations, short and feature-length films, and hybrid fictions and realities of various lengths. She is author of the lyric novella, The Accident: An Account (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020).

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