- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Jean Toomer on Life, Beauty, Identity, and More

Happy birthday, Jean Toomer! Here are some quotes from the author:

 

“Aim to encounter unknown difficulties that you may gain unexpected results.”

 

“We have many reformers, few transformers.”

 

“All our lives we have been waiting to live.”

 

“Everyone secretly expects and looks forward to the coming of some great event which will gloriously upset him.”

 

“Talk about it only enough to do it. Dream about it only enough to feel it. Think about it only enough to understand it. Contemplate it only enough to be it.”

 

“Man is a nerve of the cosmos, dislocated, trying to quiver into place.”

 

“Meet life’s terms but never accept them.”

 

“People mistake their limitations for high standards.”

 

“Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.”

 

“We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.”

 

“Call them from their houses, and teach them to dream.

 

“There is no such thing as happiness. Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may isolate them.”

 

“Whatever I believed, I did; and whatever I did, I did with my whole heart and mind as far as possible to do so—and thus I gained in intensity of experience what may have taken a less intense person a much longer time.”

 

“I am of no particular race. I am of the human race, a man at large in the human world, preparing a new race.

I am of no specific region. I am of earth.

I am of no particular class. I am of the human class, preparing a new class.

I am neither male nor female nor in-between. I am of sex, with male differentiations.

I am of no special field. I am of the field of being.”

 

“The earth, to man, is an infected planet.

The human world wants to hear what is wrong with it.

It is satisfied with the diagnosis.

It does not want to make effort attempting a basic cure.

Man has a stubborn will to circulate poison.”

 

“We are the new people,
Born of elevated rock and lifted branches,
Called Americans,
Not to mouth the label but to live the reality,
Not to stop anywhere, to respond to man,
To outgrow each wider limitation,
Growing towards the universal Human Being;
And we are the old people, witnesses
That behind us there extends
An unbroken chain of ancestors,
Ourselves linked with all who ever lived.
Joined with all future generations;
Of millions of fathers through as many years
We are the breathing receptacles.”

 

“Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears.
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.”

 

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John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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