of uncertainty and inadequacy of a different kind in an effort to achieve an expression of that which was most authentic in their lives.
Toomer was correct when he commented in retrospect that Cane was a "swansong." 27 It was the end not only of a way of Southern black life, as he saw it, but of his own commitment to place that life within art. Even during the year of Cane's publication, 1923, Toomer's attention turned to problems that he considered to be more fundamental than the challenge of producing another work modeled on Cane. When he looked at his friends and acquaintances, many of whom were committed in some way to the world of art, he was compelled to say:
Most of the men and women were growing into lopsided specialists of one
kind or another; or, they were almost hopelessly entangled in emotional
snarls and conflicts. And neither literature nor art did anything for them. In
short, my attention had been turned from the books and paintings to the
people who produced them; and I saw that these people were in a sorry
state. What did it really matter that they were able by talent to turn out
things that got reviews? 28
Toomer continued to write, but he was not destined to produce anything that matched Cane's power. His primary concern became experimentation in life rather than in art, an endeavor to be heavily influenced by contact with Gurdjieff's ideas, occurring for the first time in 1923. Before we deplore the loss to art as a consequence of this decision, we should recall that it was the aftermath of another experiment in life, Toomer's brief period of existence as a black in Georgia, that brought us Cane.