Cane: A New Critical Edition


A new critical edition for the 100th anniversary of Jean Toomer’s 1923 novel


Available exclusively here and in select indie bookstores: in Brooklyn at Taylor & Co. Books and in Seattle at Elliott Bay Book Company

In stock

SKU: 2023BOOK-CANE Categories: , , , , , , , Tags: ,


About the Book & Oracular Card Deck

Considered a masterpiece of American modernist literature, Jean Toomer’s Cane calls down through time from the Harlem Renaissance. First published in 1923, Cane was unlike anything published before and in 2023 it remains a necessary alternative to the conventions of literature and publishing. Impossible to categorize, enigmatic, unhesitating, of its time and of our time, Cane could be called a collection of stories, a play waiting to be staged, a songbook, a novel, a catalogue of Jim Crow the Great Migration, the self-portrait of a Black man who refused to claim or be claimed by race. With this 100th anniversary edition, we reimagine the critical edition as a set of cards that do not encase the book in thought and theory but invite readers to move with its movements, to employ its imaginative technologies, to be with its phenomena outside of time, for, as Toomer writes, “Time and space have no meaning in a canefield.”

Our 100th anniversary celebration of Cane is an invitation to wonder, speculate, imagine and create. We present our beautifully designed, faithful edition of the genre-defying classic along with a deck of striking, large-format oracular cards.

Black thinkers and makers from across and between creative, scholarly and community practices have convened for this project. They offer their insights in the form of prompts, gestures, images, questions, calls to respond…each authored for this edition presented on a card, paired with an evocative, timeless quote from Cane.

Use the deck and book together for insight into Cane. Or use the cards on their own for creative inspiration and oracular insight. Portals out of ordinary time.

Included in this set:

  • Our beautifully designed, faithful edition of Cane by Jean Toomer
  • A boxed deck of 52 large-format oracular cards
  • A companion booklet with more insights into the book and cards, information about contributors and an index of the book’s images, ideas and themes.
  • All elements of this set feature cover art by Barbara Earl Thomas.

About the Author

Jean Toomer, 1894-1967, was a poet, playwright and novelist. Son of a formerly enslaved, mixed-race farmer, grandson of the first Black governor during Reconstruction, Toomer resisted identification with race, choosing to call himself an “American.”

The Oracular Card Deck Contributorsalea adigweme, photo by Jaimie Milner • Alexis Pauline Gumbs, photo by Sufia Ikbal-Doucet • Andrew E. Colarusso, photo by Arvind Ranganathan • Angela Davis Johnson, photo by Celia D. Luna • Aricka Foreman, photo by Robert Martinez • Arielle Julia Brown, photo by Angel Edwards • Awoye Timpo, photo by Hollis King • Barbara Earl Thomas, photo by Jovelle Tamayo • Bettina Judd, photo courtesy of the author • Bill Lowe, photo by Peter Gannushkin • Canisia Lubrin, photo by Clea Christakos-Gee • Christina Sharpe, photo courtesy of the author • Daniel Alexander Jones, photo courtesy of Cal Arts • David Thomson, photo by Sylvain Guenot • Desiree C. Bailey, photo by Wilton Schereka • Dominique Rider, photo by Raphael Saddick • Douglas Kearney, photo by Bao Phi • Dr. Elijah Heyward III, photo courtesy of Yale University • drea brown, photo courtesy of the author • El/yse Ambrose, photo courtesy of the author • Gabrielle Civil, photo courtesy of the author • Jefferson Pinder, photo by Luis Acosta Tejada • John Keene, photo by Nina Subin • K’eguro Macharia, photo courtesy of the author • Kameelah Janan Rasheed, photo by Grant Delin • Kevin Adonis Browne, photo by Dawn Cumberbatch • m. nourbeSe philip, photo by Gail Nyoka • Malcolm Tariq, photo by Karisma Price • Maya Marshall, photo by Ashley Kauschinger • Nikky Finney, photo by Forrest Clonts • Nissy Aya, photo by Halima McDoom • Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, photo by Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees • Phillip Howze, photo courtesy of the author • Phillip B. Williams, photo by Nicholas Nichols • Quenton Baker, photo by Dean Davis • Rinaldo Walcott, photo by Abdi Osman • Sarah Stefana Smith, photo by Adrian White • Sharon Bridgforth, photo by Nia Witherspoon • Sheree Renée Thomas, photo by Danian Darrell Jerry • Tchaiko Omawale, photo by Brinson + Banks • Therí Alyce Pickens, photo by Jason Douglas Lewis • Jean Toomer, photo courtesy of the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Project Editors

Diane Exavier
Carlos Sirah
Anne de Marcken






Diane Exavier is a writer, theatermaker and educator working at the intersection of performance and poetry. She is author of the poetry collection The Math of Saint Felix and the chapbook Teaches of Peaches. Diane concerns herself with what she recognizes as the 4 L’s: love, loss, legacy, and land. Her work has been presented with The New Group, BRIC Arts, Bowery Poetry Club, Dixon Place, and more. She has been commissioned for new play development by the Sloan Foundation, The New Group, and Lucille Lortel Theatre. A 2021 Jerome Foundation finalist, Diane lives and works in Brooklyn.

Carlos Sirah is a writer, performer, dramaturg, and cultural worker who creates formal structures rooted in Black expressions of possibility that take the shape of concert, lyric prose, procession, film, and stageplays. Sirah’s transdisciplinary work draws from the legacy of multiple traditions: Black Arts Movement,  Black Radical Tradition, Theatrical Jazz, and Blues. His work has been supported with residencies or grants from the Vermont Studio Center, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Ragdale, The Hambidge Center, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Millay Colony, The Blue Mountain Center, Network of Ensemble Theatres, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Writers Guild Foundation. Sirah is a member of the Remember2019 collective. Sirah has been a MacDowell fellow and holds an MFA in Writing for Performance from Brown University.

Anne de Marcken is Editor and Publisher of The 3rd Thing. An interdisciplinary writer and artist, she is author of It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over, winner of the 2022 Novel Prize, and The Accident: An Account. Her work in writing, film and site-specific installation has garnered numerous awards as well as grant and fellowship support from the Millay Colony, Jentel Foundation, Centrum, Artist Trust, the Hafer Family Foundation and elsewhere. She lives in Olympia at the southern tip of the Salish Sea.

From Cane

The sun is hammered to a band of gold. Pine-needles, like mazda, are brilliantly aglow. No rain has come to take the rustle from the falling sweet-gum leaves. Over in the forest, across the swamp, a sawmill blows its closing whistle. Smoke curls up. Marvelous web spun by the spider sawdust pile. Curls up and spreads itself pine-high above the branch, a single silver band along the eastern valley. A black boy … you are the most sleepiest man I ever seed, Sleeping Beauty … cradled on a gray mule, guided by the hollow sound of cow-bells, heads for them through a rusty cotton field. From down the railroad track, the chug-chug of a gas engine announces that the repair gang is coming home. 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 Toomer, 1923/2023

Additional information

Weight 48 oz
Dimensions 8 × 6 × 1.5 in