Blue Meridian Essay - Critical Essays

Jean Toomer


While not structured chronologically or in linear fashion, the poem does show the extent to which Toomer was aligned with the conventions of modernism such as stream of consciousness, imagism, and free verse. The poem’s structure, as well as some of its fundamental ideas, may be compared to the spontaneous style and original content of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” In many ways, “Blue Meridian” resembles a collage of images and ideas, juxtaposing these without a seemingly logical progression or transition. Toomer particularly uses juxtaposition to introduce some of the key movements in the poem—from the old modes of thinking and perception about reality to the new. The most obvious use of juxtaposition occurs when Toomer uses sections in italics, which show a progression from the narrow black meridian to the other extreme, white meridian, and which end with the blue meridian, a symbol for the balance and unity of the peoples and ideas of the earth.

By far the most frequently used poetic devices in the poem are metaphor and personification. There are a number of symbols employed in the poem as well: the Mississippi River, the sun, the eagle, the star, and the wheel, for example. Toomer’s style, while superficially complex, does not include many traditional poetic devices, and the ones he does use are not excessively complex. One could in fact clearly understand the poem without an exhaustive study of the devices within it.


(The entire section is 437 words.)