November Cotton Flower

By Jean Toomer 1894–1967 Jean Toomer
Boll-weevil’s coming, and the winter’s cold,
Made cotton-stalks look rusty, seasons old,
And cotton, scarce as any southern snow,
Was vanishing; the branch, so pinched and slow,
Failed in its function as the autumn rake;
Drouth fighting soil had caused the soil to take
All water from the streams; dead birds were found
In wells a hundred feet below the ground—
Such was the season when the flower bloomed.
Old folks were startled, and it soon assumed
Significance. Superstition saw
Something it had never seen before:
Brown eyes that loved without a trace of fear,
Beauty so sudden for that time of year.

Jean Toomer, "November Cotton Flower" from Cane.  Copyright 1923 by Boni & Liveright, renewed 1951 by Jean Toomer.  Reprinted with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.  This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Cane (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1923)

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Poet Jean Toomer 1894–1967

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Landscapes & Pastorals, Fall, Nature

Poetic Terms Couplet, Sonnet

 Jean  Toomer

Biography

An important figure in African-American literature, Jean Toomer (1894—1967) was born in Washington, DC, the grandson of the first governor of African-American descent in the United States. A poet, playwright, and novelist, Toomer’s most famous work, Cane, was published in 1923 and was hailed by critics for its literary experimentation and portrayal of African-American characters and culture.

As a child, Toomer attended both . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Landscapes & Pastorals, Fall, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Couplet, Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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