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Posts Tagged ‘Jean Toomer’

What We’re Loving: Toomer, Kusama, and Train

July 13, 2012 | by

Yayoi Kusama, Self-Obliteration No. 1, 1962–67, watercolor, ink, graphite, and photocollage on paper, 15 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Six years ago I wrote a little article about my favorite Washington, D.C., novels—and was roundly chastised for leaving Cane off the list. First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s modernist classic isn't exactly about Washington, and it isn’t exactly a novel. It’s an early response to the Great Migration, in linked stories and verse, that moves from rural Georgia to U Street and back again. Still, it may well be the District’s greatest hit. It is pure lyricism, perfect for these late summer nights. —Lorin Stein

I caught a preview of the Yayoi Kusama retrospective that opened at the Whitney yesterday. If you’ve heard of her at all, it’s likely for her signature polka dots (or perhaps for her recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton). As a video in the show attests, her use of those dots was compulsive and obsessive: she sticks them on prone nudes, reclining cats, distracted dogs; they litter the ground, the wind, the sky. But most intriguing are her very early paintings, in which you can see Kusama working through the early masters of Western modernism. Of particular interest was a very odd painting incredibly titled Accumulation of Corpses (Prisoner Surrounded by the Curtain of Depersonalization), in which waves of red curtain folds pinhole a scene of bare trees. As chance would have it, the painting perfectly represented the book I’ve been reading, Windeye, Brian Evenson’s adroitly creepy new story collection. It’s kismet! —Nicole Rudick

What is glamour and how does one attain it? Is it curated, cultivated—or does it just arrive, like inspiration? Jim Lewis’s article for W magazine, “Face Forward,” is the perfect starting point for anyone intrigued by (or dismissive of) this fleeting, shimmering quality. For me, if beauty is an image, then glamour is imagery: aesthetics in the service of narrative. What is glamour, after all, but good storytelling? Presenting a glimpse of a lifestyle—or perhaps, a way of being—other, elsewhere, and then gone. —Alyssa Loh
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Jean Toomer’s “Beehive”

December 8, 2011 | by

Jean Toomer lived in Washington, D.C., but “Beehive” could be about any city, and for me it’s Manhattan. I live in Red Hook, so from the window I can see Lower Manhattan across the river. It’s massive and always in motion. At night, the buildings and the cars on the FDR look crystalline. They are all bodies busy with their duties and delights, like “bees passing in and out the moon.” I like that Toomer is also alert to the solitude and melancholy of being merely one among millions.

Beehive

Within this black hive tonight 
There swarm a million bees; 
Bees passing in and out the moon, 
Bees escaping out the moon, 
Bees returning through the moon, 
Silver bees intently buzzing, 
Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees 
Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb, 
And I, a drone, 
Lying on my back, 
Lipping honey, 
Getting drunk with silver honey, 
Wish that I might fly out past the moon 
And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower.

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