Spoon River Anthology
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Spoon River Anthology

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  4,044 ratings  ·  315 reviews
From spoonriveranthology.net: "Edgar Lee Masters's 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 f...more
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Published by Touchstone Books (first published 1914)
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Karla (Mossy Love Grotto)
I've trawled through many a 19th century small town newspaper for various research projects, and one's dirty linen was often hung out to dry for public view in the printed word. Old men running off with the serving girls, errant wives being tracked down and found in flagrante with their lovers, etc. I've even got a great-great-uncle whose wife was run out of town on a rail by "The Community" for her illicit affair with a neighbor. Nasty little Victorian Peyton Places. Reading Spoon River Antholo...more
Evan
244 dead residents of the Midwestern town of Spoon River (some based on real people and some fictional) tell the stories of their triumphs, frustrations, unrequited longings, their secrets --- often harboring lingering grudges about people buried alongside them. Whole families and neighbors, crosstalking in death. Each poem is titled with the name of the person speaking; each is short and most of them are heartbreaking. The wife and husband and the doctor, all scandalized by an abortion, the boy...more
Thomas
Not a bad book, but not one I would read again or recommend to others. It's a collection of free-verse poems, crafted as epitaphs of the former citizens of the Midwestern town Spoon River. While there were some meaningful poems and well-developed characters, there were quite a few sections that I did not care for at all. I've never been an ardent fan of poetry, though, and this one, while a good read, did nothing to change that.

Here's my favorite poem from the book:

"George Gray:
I have studied ma...more
Arwen56
Herbert Marshall

Tutto il tuo dolore, Louise, e l'odio per me nacquero dalla tua illusione che fosse capriccio dello spirito e disprezzo dei diritti della tua anima a spingermi verso Annabelle e lasciarti.
In realta' tu arrivasti a odiarmi per amore, perche' ero la gioia della tua anima, formato e temprato per risolverti la vita, ma non volli.
Tu invece eri il mio strazio. Se tu fossi stata la mia felicita', non mi sarei forse aggrappato a te?
Questo e' l'amaro della vita: che solo in due si puo'
...more
S©aP
L'ombra della morte, per ridare alla vita le sue dimensioni. Per restituire il giusto senso alle cose, oltre lo scempio delle millanterie dei vivi. Una geniale intuizione, quella di di E.L.Masters, capace di rendere, in pochi tratti di poesia, tutte le profondità dell'esistenza.

PS - Interessantissimi e illuminanti i saggi introduttivi, di Fernanda Pivano e Cesare Pavese
J.
After a full summer battling Infinite Jest (and thoroughly enjoying it), this book was welcome relief. It is a mix of homespun wisdom and incredibly insightful commentary. While very accessible, Masters is astute. He has a lot to say about living, death, and regret (and a surprising amount on lawyers). This is the kind of book you can give to your Grandma, with a nice note that says "I love you," and then have something to discuss over the holidays as you help her wash the dishes.

On morality's...more
Christina
I have read this book about 50 times, in bits and pieces, and about a half-dozen from start to finish in order. I love it.

Let me start with what the book is about. This is a book of free-form poems that serves as a narrative, each poem told from the point of view of a resident of Spoon River who has died and who is telling their story after the fact, their own epitaph. Some poems go together, some stand alone, but they form the elaborate portrait of a community.

A seeming non-sequitur, perhaps,...more
Guido
Se i morti potessero parlare, sarebbero sinceri: liberi dall'obbligo della buona educazione, dal dover mantenere la necessaria discrezione tra vicini e familiari, dalla necessità di salvare le apparenze in nome dell'onore, insomma da tutti i meccanismi che hanno regolato l'ipocrisia della loro vita sociale, direbbero finalmente quello che, in vita, non hanno mai potuto dire. Un intero villaggio di morti improvvisamente coscienti della propria libertà di parola dà vita, in maniera quasi teatrale,...more
Ben Loory
i admit that i probably love the idea of this book more than the actual book, but i love the idea of it so damn much that the actual thing still gets five stars. a portrait of a small american town through the from-the-dead poem-soliloquies of hundreds of its departed inhabitants, it's unlike any other book i've ever read. the dead folk discuss their lives and deaths and thoughts and beliefs and relationships with each other, the town, and the larger world. it's from the dead so there's a pronou...more
Simona
In quest'antologia Lee Masters dà voce al mondo dei morti di un villaggio americano del Midwest, Spoon River, appunto. I morti vogliono raccontare la loro verità, che è stata molto spesso taciuta e ignorata pIn quest'antologia Lee Masters dà voce al mondo dei morti di un villaggio americano del Midwest, Spoon River, appunto. I morti vogliono raccontare la loro verità, che è stata molto spesso taciuta e ignorata per ipocrisia, convenienza, ecc.
Un'antologia di imprecazioni, lamenti, epitaffi sull...more
Owen
To think of a small town cemetery is to imagine peace. So begins the foreword of Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology. If only there was peace while the residents were living, but that doesn't sound likely does it. Well, dead bodies can't really bicker that much can they? Maybe just a bit.

Small town life is often presented incorrectly. Have you seen the movie about the Mystic pizza place in Connecticut? I haven't, but I've been there. It's okay. My family went to the living history type plac...more
Jen
This is a conceptually intriguing book in which the residents (represented by over 200 poems) of a small town cemetery speak from the grave about the truth as they see it, being free from social pressure or potential retribution to present themselves or others in a good light.

I think it's important to remember that Masters was a lawyer by profession, a person who had heard people's testimonies about incidents and different people and had seen how judges and juries dealt with them. This book isn'...more
Franky
Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology is a series of poems representing the voices of Spoon River, a fictional Southern town. The citizens, who speak from beyond the grave on The Hill, tell of their lives and those they knew, lamenting on various aspects of their past life. The poems have a dramatic monologue, epitaph-like quality; they are snapshots of emotion, philosophy, wisdom and morals from these residents.

The individual voices of Spoon River are quite diverse, as you might imagine. Mu...more
Grady McCallie
I can appreciate why, at the time of its publication in 1915, the book was seen as creative in its structure -- lots of short poems, each in the voice or a different deceased former resident of the town of Spoon River, Illinois -- and bracingly blunt in its substance. Some of the deceased admit to having committed murder or adultery; others offer sardonic reflections - all is vanity and chasing the wind. Since then, of course, the themes have become commonplace, and been explored with greater nu...more
Michael
I really enjoyed this. I was attracted to it as an example of a populist experimental narrative form... over 200 verse monologues of dead people buried together in a small-town cemetery. It was a best seller in 1914 or so. Not something I necessarily expected to read all the way through, but it caught me up and won my attention away from a couple other books I was reading simultaneously. Then made me pick up a little Whitman after I was done.

Great sense of the small-town Midwest in its golden ag...more
Inder
Published in 1914, each poem in the Spoon River Anthology is an imagined epitaph, spoken from the perspective of a dead resident of Spoon River, Illinois. Each has its own voice, and its own story. Some of the dead speak of contentment and happiness - most speak of heart wrenching loss and longing. Read together, they paint a vivid picture of the 19th century small-town American mid-west, rife with struggles political (robber barons, corrupt bankers, labor conflicts, prohibitionists, suffragette...more
Geniuswill42 Ramsey
We read selections from this in English and I was like "Whoa this is a cool and eclectic mix of epitaphs written by themselves." I get the book and realize that it's not an eclectic mix it's just one unrealistically depressing epitaph after another of people having affairs and lieing all the time and I'm like "OK no town is this depressing." It just got repeptive and sameish. If it was 20 pages shorter it would have been better, but it was just overkill of the same basic idea over and over again...more
Gayle
This was our most recent book club selection and it wasn't my favorite. At times I felt like I was wading through a college assignment trying to make sense of some of the poems, and overall, it was just pretty negative and depressing. There were a handful of the poems (monologues from people buried in the cemetery of a small town) that I really liked, but overall there were too many that dealt with affairs, murders and basically the lifeview that God isn't important and there is no purpose to li...more
Adobe
Spoon River Anthology is more than the sum of its parts. The dead comment and complain about their neighbors; the graveyard is a community of gossipy cross-references. The best poems play off other poems: one set of poems includes a young woman, her father, her doctor, the doctor's wife, and (finally) the woman's rapist -- and it's only after reading all of these poems that the reader realizes the oblique subject (a botched abortion) that all the speakers have skirted around.

Figuring out the con...more
Matthew
I was shocked by how bizarre, morbid, and heartbreakingly beautiful this book was.

It is simple: Voices from the graveyard finally telling the truth about their lives. This has to be the greatest poetry to ever come out of America.
Cynthia
MS/HS Poems
Masters, Edgar Lee. Spoon River Anthology (Macmillan & Co., 1915).
The poems in this anthology are a collection of would be epitaphs of several residents of the fictional town of Spoon River. The epitaphs are written by the dead themselves. They tell of times when they were alive. Some tell about the bad things did in their life and others tell about their achievements. Some characters that Masters writes about were based on people that h knew. Not an easy read, but enjoyable for t...more
Steve
Spoon River has secrets, ready to spill out over hundreds of poems. They read differently, as each is written from the perspective of an inhabitant of the town who died at some point. Some of the characters have relationships, often left for the reader to understand. This anthology is really a unique book, I doubt I'll read another quite like it, but the writing feels very dated at times and failed to draw me in beyond my interest in the book as a whole. I saw this done as a play at Soulpepper t...more
Misti
"Yee Bow"

They got me into the Sunday-school
In Spoon River
And tried to get me to drop Confucius for Jesus.
I could have been no worse off
If I had tried to get them to drop Jesus for Confucius.
For, without any warning, as if it were a prank,
And sneaking up behind me, Harry Wiley,
The minister's son, caved my ribs into my lungs,
With a blow of his fist.
Now I shall never sleep with my ancestors in Pekin,
And no children shall worship at my grave.

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

"Amanda Barker"

Hen...more
Kristen
Spoon Rover Anthology was an assigned reading for my ENG 181: Literary Analysis and Interpretation class. Because of this, I only read the actual poems from this book..

Masters's Spoon River Anthology is a collection of free verse poems; each poem is narrated by a deceased resident from the small town of Spoon River. It included "The Hill", "Minerva Jones", "Butch Weldy", "Benjamin Pantier", "Editor Whedon", "The Spooniad", and more. Now, it was quite difficult for me to rate this one. Despite be...more
Lize
From 1915, this anthology of poems leads you through a small-town graveyard, where the dead themselves tell the stories behind each tombstone. And what they describe is heartbreaking; lost loves, unfulfilled dreams, and all the other secrets people take to their graves, laid open for all to see. Some of the poems may seem old-fashioned to modern readers, but others pack a punch that transcends all time. Margaret Fuller Slack's life struck the greatest chord with me:

47. Margaret Fuller Slack

I WOU...more
Sharayah
Alfred Moir

Why was I not devoured by self-contempt,
And rotted down by indifference
And impotent revolt like "Indignation" Jones?
Why, with all my errant steps,
Did I miss the fate of Willard Fluke?
And why, though I stood at Burchard's bar,
As a sort of decoy for the house to the boys
To buy the drinks, did the curse of drink
Fall on me like rain that runs off,
Leaving the soul of me dry and clean?
And why did I never kill a man
Like Jack McGuire?
But instead I mounted a little in life,
And I owe it all to
...more
Kelanth, numquam risit ubi dracones vivunt
L'Antologia di Spoon River è una raccolta di poesie che il poeta americano Edgar Lee Masters pubblicò tra il 1914 e il 1915 sul Mirror di St. Louis. Ogni poesia racconta, in forma di epitaffio, la vita di una delle persone sepolte nel cimitero di un piccolo paesino immaginario della provincia americana.

Questa "Antologia di Spoon River" rasenta sicuramente la genialità, impreziosita indubbiamente dalla traduzione della Pivano, che esalta secondo me la scrittura originaria e la nota critica di Pav...more
Chad Bearden
All things being even, I really prefer prose to poetry, and therein lies my luke-warm respect for the Spoon River Anthology. Not that Masters didn't write a rather interesting and readable work here. And not that what he wrote was poetry in the conventional sense.

The things I liked, I really liked. I rather enjoyed the way Masters was able to weave several subtle narratives in and out of the epitaphs (or 'poems', if you prefer) of the inhabitants of The Hill, the cemetary where lies the deceased...more
Kurt
I first read this book in high school, and when I saw a copy in a discount section of a bookstore, I was honestly surprised that it was considered poetry. My 15 year old memories were of many residents of a small town airing their grievances about religious hypocrisy, sexual scandals, and a catastrophic bank failure. I had remembered only the fascinating little soap opera elements and none of the poetic achievements of the book. Reading the book as an adult, though, I am much more struck by Mast...more
Rebecca
In high school, I was part of a class that inspired a lot of my teaching, called American Studies. This class combined American history and literature, with an emphasis on acting and creativity. We had debates as historical figures, reenacted major events in history, and traveled in imaginary prairie schooners across the western plains. We also put on plays, including an adaptation of Spoon River Anthology. The haunting, free form poems have stuck with me, and I still love to flip through and de...more
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Edgar Lee Masters (Garnett, Kansas, August 23, 1868 - Melrose Park, Pennsylvania, March 5, 1950) was an American poet, biographer, and dramatist. He is the author of Spoon River Anthology, The New Star Chamber and Other Essays, Songs and Satires, The Great Valley, The Serpent in the Wilderness An Obscure Tale, The Spleen, Mark Twain: A Portrait, Lincoln: The Man, and Illinois Poems. In all, Master...more
More about Edgar Lee Masters...
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“To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.”
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“To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.”
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