Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee MastersFrom spoonriveranthology.net: Edgar Lee Masterss Spoon River Anthology was an immediate commercial success when it was published in 1915. Unconventional in both style and content, it shattered the myths of small town American life. A collection of epitaphs of residents of a small town, a full understanding of Spoon River requires the reader to piece together narratives from fragments contained in individual poems.
American Icons: ‘Spoon River Anthology’
Edgar Lee Masters is best remembered for his great collection Spoon River Anthology, a sequence of over two hundred free-verse epitaphs spoken from the cemetery of the town of Spoon River. When the collection first saw publication in , it caused a great sensation because of its forthrightness about sex, moral decay, and hypocrisy; but its cynical view of Midwestern small town values influenced a whole generation of writers and their works. Russell in the Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography, "became an international popular and critical success and introduced with a flourish what has since come to be known as the Chicago Renaissance"—a group of writers, including Masters, Carl Sandburg , Vachel Lindsay , and Theodore Dreiser, who disproved the commonly held notion that only on the East Coast of the U. The central Illinois area in which Masters grew up was especially revered for its historic association with Abraham Lincoln ; Russell commented that Masters's "hometown of Petersburg was but two miles from Lincoln's New Salem; he knew personally William Herndon Lincoln's law partner , the Armstrong family one of whom Lincoln had defended , and John McNamar the man who jilted Ann Rutledge before her story became entwined with Lincoln's. Using a variety of pseudonyms to avoid possible damage to his law practice, Masters began to publish poetry in magazines. By he had published four books of poetry, seven plays, and a collection of essays, but none of them had received much critical attention.
Skip to content. Death has loosened their tongues, and they tell us what they really think about their hopes and dreams and damaged lives. The book became a landmark in American poetry, selling 80, copies in its first year, and has never been out of print. A church bell sounded mournfully far away, I heard the cry of a baby, And the coughing of John Yarnell, Bed-ridden, feverish, feverish, dying, Then the violent voice of my wife: "Watch out, the potatoes are burning! I pulled the trigger.
In his thinly veiled fictional town of Spoon River, situated in central Illinois near Lewistown, where Masters grew up, the honest, hardworking, chaste, and churchgoing live amidst corrupt bankers, abusive husbands, unfulfilled wives, sexual deviants, and failed dreamers. In the groundbreaking work, Masters, a onetime law partner of Clarence Darrow, gives voice to more than two hundred deceased citizens of Spoon River who are laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery, known to the locals as The Hill. Each postmortem poem in the collection is titled with the name of the citizen who reveals some truth about their daily existence in Spoon River. Masters gleaned tidbits of stories and gossip he heard during the time he spent in Lewistown and nearby Petersburg, where his grandparents lived. In some cases, Masters barely changed their names.
Poetic justice in small-town America
It was inspired by the epigrams in the Greek Anthology. The Spoon River Anthology is a collection of free-verse epitaphs in the form of monologues. They are spoken from beyond the grave by former residents of a dreary, confining small town like those Masters himself had known during his Illinois boyhood. The speakers tell of their hopes and ambitions and of their bitter, unrealized lives. The realistic poems proved controversial when they were first published, for they contradicted the popular view of small towns as repositories of moral virtue and respectability. Spoon River Anthology.
Spoon River Anthology , by Edgar Lee Masters , is a collection of short free verse poems that collectively narrates the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town of Lewistown, Illinois. The aim of the poems is to demystify rural and small town American life. The collection includes separate characters, in all providing accounts of their lives, losses, and manner of death. Many of the poems contain cross-references that create an unabashed tapestry of the community. The poems were originally published in the St. Louis, Missouri literary journal Reedy's Mirror.