Interest and Aim of the Toomer pages
Inspite of their pretensions, these web pages are not meant to be a scholarly work. It is certain that I have plagarized ideas, if not actual words, of many biographers & critics of Jean Toomer. I am a mathematics scholar - not a literary scholar. Yet this writing has three purposes, one is to introduce Toomer to generations of Humanity and Americans and African Americans unfamiliar with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition, this work is an empathetic present to my three daughters of a previous marriage whose "racial bloods" are not disimilar from those of Jean Toomer. The third purpose requires some historical presentation:
At the age of 12, I exhausted those books allowed one of my years at the twice monthly library van. Thus, began periodic searches of my parents bookshelves in search of books containing more about sex than the Questions Boys Ask they gave me. Though my goal was rarely satisfied, I did discover the writers Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. duBois, and Jean Toomer (as well as E.E. Cummings, Voltaire, Jack Kerouac, Isaac Asimov, and Norman Mailer). I recall Toomer's "Cane" very interesting, especially, Becky, Seventh Street, Theater, and Box Seat. Other stories/poems in the book were puzzling. Yet, as I was but one of three African Americans in a hostile first year of integration Baltimore junior high school, I readily identified with parts of Paul and Bona.
In the midst of my Black Power political years of the 1960's, I was introduced to the teachings of Gurdjieff, independently, by a Russian emigré psychologist Boris Bohun-Chudyniv living near DC, and a Greek mathematician, Constantinos Ragazas living in State College Pennsylvania. Though there was nothing overtly "Black" or "political" about Gurdjieff or his teachings, I got caught by a somewhat latent spiritual thirst.
A "Black" side of my personality was caught with the late 70's release of the album Sacred Hymns of Gurdjieff by my favorite jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. In 1986, I found a somewhat dubious, in authenticity, to me book called The Gurdjieff Work by Kathleen Riordan Speeth who claimed that Jean Toomer was affected by Gurdjieff. At the time I had been, for fifteen years, a student of the late Louise Goepfert March, who had been with Gurdjieff twenty years. Her own Rochester Folk Art Guild seemed to be run on principles similar to those of the Prieuré, Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fountainbleau, France. As Mrs. March had not informed me of her own connection with Toomer , my, what Gurdjieff termed, identification with Jean Toomer was late to commence. It is now ten years later, my daughter Rachael, a writer also of "many bloods", has reminded me of the connection between Toomer and Gurdjieff, I write these web pages as "struggle with identification" as I near my thirtieth year in the Gurdjieff Work.