Edgar Lee Masters (1868 – 1950) is best known for his famous book of poetry, Spoon River Anthology (1916), in which 244 voices speak of all the passion and tedium of life, and often death. Visiting Spoon River is to visit a poetic graveyard to read the headstones.
Masters produced far more than this work. He wrote 12 plays, 21 books of poetry, six novels, six biographies (including one of poet Vachel Lindsay, featured here yesterday) and numerous other works. He was also an attorney.
Spoon River was loosely based on the small town where he lived in Illinois. And the residents of the area never forgave him.
For National Poetry Month, three of the “headstones” from Spoon River Anthology:
Spoon River Anthology
By Edgar Lee Masters
|Henry got me with child,|
|Knowing that I could not bring forth life|
|Without losing my own.|
|In my youth therefore I entered the portals of dust.|
|Traveler, it is believed in the village where I lived|
|That Henry loved me with a husband’s love,|
|But I proclaim from the dust|
|That he slew me to gratify his hatred.|
Trainor, the Druggist
|Only the chemist can tell, and not always the chemist,|
|What will result from compounding|
|Fluids or solids.|
|And who can tell|
|How men and women will interact|
|On each other, or what children will result?|
|There were Benjamin Pantier and his wife,|
|Good in themselves, but evil toward each other:|
|He oxygen, she hydrogen,|
|Their son, a devastating fire.|
|I Trainor, the druggist, a mixer of chemicals,|
|Killed while making an experiment,|
|Do you remember when I stood on the steps|
|Of the Court House and talked free-silver,|
|And the single-tax of Henry George?|
|Then do you remember that, when the Peerless Leader|
|Lost the first battle, I began to talk prohibition,|
|And became active in the church?|
|That was due to my wife,|
|Who pictured to me my destruction|
|If I did not prove my morality to the people.|
|Well, she ruined me:|
|For the radicals grew suspicious of me,|
|And the conservatives were never sure of me—|
|And here I lie, unwept of all.|
You can read the entire work online at Bartleby’s.
Postings and News Updates:
“Resort, ” a new poem about the creepiest hotel you ever saw, by Marcus Goodyear for National Poetry Month.
“The Windhover”, a sestet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is featured at the Guardian.
The Poem A Day for yesterday from the Academy of American Poets is “Inheritance” by Daniel Johnson.
- Poets and Poems: Andrew Benson Brown and “Legends of Liberty” - September 14, 2021
- ‘Spoon River America’: Jason Stacy on the Myth of the Small Town - September 7, 2021
- Poets and Poems: Thomas Colquith and ‘Let Our Memories Escape’ - August 31, 2021