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Spoon River Anthology

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  11,043 ratings  ·  860 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
Paperback, 112 pages
Published 2006 by Hard Press (first published 1915)
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Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you liked Fannie Flagg's THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING, Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN, and/or Virginia Woolf's THE WAVES, you might like this. I read this because of THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING.
Thanks for reading....and listening!
Jon Nakapalau
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The dead tell their secrets where they are buried. With no reason to lie we find that all is not what it seemed to be: some of the 'pillars' of the community were rotten to the core and some of the 'dregs' of the town were the best citizens. I think of this book every time I see a homeless person and wonder: has society abandoned this person while (somewhere) a CEO commits crimes that will never come to light? ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Edgar Lee Masters was the first poet whose poetry I loved with my whole heart. My high opinion of his work has never changed, notwithstanding the fact that he hasn't been cool for 50 years, if ever. Ha! Neither have I. ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, published in 1915, is a unique literary experience.

A collection of inter-related free-form poems, each title a person’s name, and each person a resident of the town cemetery. Masters has each relate a short story; some folks talk about their life, many about the circumstances of their death. Husbands and wives relate different perspectives of the same events, lovers and soldiers tell of their history, and each is a distinct, poetic voice.

Masters begins
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the few books that I would take to a desert island. A book that must be read many times, over the years, because every time you discover new ideas, new beauties. A book that you want to read many times, because it always provides new emotions. That's why it has inspired great songwriters, among all the great Fabrizio De Andrè, the only Italian singer-songwriter worthy of the name. Spoon River is basically the collection of all the epitaphs (about 200) of the people in the cemetery of this ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I, like many people, had read some of the pieces in "Spoon River Anthology" in college, but I have to recommend reading the entire work. It is a unique and very fulfilling experience. Edgar Lee Masters' greatest work was published as a unified whole in 1915 and is 244 individual poems, each from the perspective of a different dead person in the cemetery. Their name serves as the poem's title. Woven throughout the 244 pieces are 19 stories that are pieced together through interwoven portraits fro ...more
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, cross-talking 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
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dead-tree
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
Michael Perkins
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I'd see the title of this book, published more than one hundred years ago, it always sounded as if it were written by a Southern writer. In a sense, it was. Though the author grew up in small towns in Illinois and eventually went to practice law with Clarence Darrow in Chicago, his family had Southern roots. He always maintained sympathy for the Confederacy and wrote scathing "biographies" of both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain.

This book of blank verse poetry, focusing on the character and
Sep 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samuel Gardner
I who kept the greenhouse,
Lover of trees and flowers,
Oft in life saw this umbrageous elm,
Measuring its generous branches with my eye,
And listened to its rejoicing leaves
Lovingly patting each other
With sweet aeolian whispers.
And well they might:
For the roots had grown so wide and deep
That the soil of the hill could not withhold
Aught of its virtue, enriched by rain,
And warmed by the sun;
But yelded it all to the thrifty roots,
Through which it was drawn and whirled to th
Maybe we never really die as long as we are remembered. Only after we are forgotten can we find the peace of the soul and get rid of our burden of guilt, mistakes and regrets; it is the oblivion of the living that allows us to leave the world behind and enter the life we were truly meant to live.
If so, the best we can do for our beloved is to set them free from the snares of our sorrow until we meet again.

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
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so very lovely.
Jay French
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I grew up in Northwestern Illinois. I knew the land to the Southeast of us was fertile ground for poets, with Galesburg’s Carl Sandburg and Springfield’s Vachel Lindsay, and with Spoon River’s Edgar Lee Masters about halfway between. I have long known that Master’s “Spoon River Anthology” was a series of short poems based on names on the gravestones in a cemetery near the river, having learned that from my Dad’s copy of his high school Literature book. I’m not sure how my Dad ended up with a cop ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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'
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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,
Ben Loory
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Since Thornton Wilder mentions Edgar Lee Masters in Act Two of Our Town, I’ve always been intrigued by Spoon River Anthology. “Lucinda Matlock,” which is referenced by Wilder’s Stage Manager in the opening of Act Two, is the poem I am most familiar with from the collection; however, there are several that I recognized because I’ve used Spoon River Anthology as a poetry project with students in the past.
It amazes me how the stories of the citizens of Spoon River are told after their deaths throu
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, poetry
The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Edgar Lee Masters' great work is impressive in its scope; with over two hundred "epitaphs," each one an individual person, the collection takes apart small-town America in the early 20th century with astonishing precision. Masters makes no bones about the presence of corruption and cruelty (Thomas Rhodes is frequently indicted by the other dead), secret sins, everything that those who would have lived in a town like Spoon River saw every day of
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily Dybdahl
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
This was a fascinating walk through a graveyard of lives lived and ended in passion-whether it was despair, yearning, resentment, or remembered dreams. Each poem gave a brief glimpse into the most emotional portion of the person's life. Stories were interwoven as names cropped up in other people's poems or epitaphs. Opposing perspectives showed unreliable narrators-liars, those who were just plain delusional, and maybe two equally true but incompatible sides to a story. Below are the titles that ...more
Lori - I'm back (with a lot to catch up on)
As a lit major who took grad courses I have no idea how this book eluded me. I'd never heard of it until recently and I'm so glad someone told me about it. It's' remarkable. It reminds me of "Our Town," which I love, but of course the format (free verse) allows a much deeper dive than "Our Town." One of my favorite books is George Saunders's "Lincoln in the Bardo" and reading "Spoon River" you can't miss that it's the grandfather of that book or at the least an important inspiration for it. "Spo ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, southern, read2010
I heard about this anthology first in The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, and when I went back to look for it, I also found an album based on the songs. So I used my Rhapsody account and listened to The Hill by Richard Buckner while reading the 244 accounts by dead people in the cemetary on the hill in Spoon River.

Some of my favorites included Robert Davidson (creepy), Faith Matheny (and her visions of God and love), Mary McNeely ("Passerby, To love is to find your own soul through the soul of t
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads, poetry
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
J.M. Hushour
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a stunning, unique and addictive work of poetry that it's just downright preposterous! The idea is: the deceased members of a small mid-western town tell their stories, all 200+ of them in brief and sublime explorations in free verse. Holy shit. These are incredible. From the village fool to corrupt politicians, jilted lovers, murderers, these, friends, are the throatless gasps and clawings at tomorrow of the American soul. Spoon River is, by my estimation, far more important than anyone go ...more
Geniuswill42 Ramsey
May 31, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Overlapping memories give a warts and all portrait of a town. The Spooniad is a clever mock-epic ridiculing Americans’ pretensions to classicism.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
surprising and experimental. I’m in the area where this book was written, so I’m reading this as a form of radical tourism
Nov 21, 2022 rated it really liked it
Spoon River Anthology

Robert Davidson

I grew spiritually fat living off the souls of men.
If I saw a soul that was strong
I wounded its pride and devoured its strength.
The shelters of friendship knew my cunning
For where I could steal a friend I did so.
And wherever I could enlarge my power
By undermining ambition, I did so,
Thus to make smooth my own.
And to triumph over other souls,
Just to assert and prove my superior strength,
Was with me a delight,
The keen exhilaration of soul gymnastics.
Devouring sou
Oct 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up. Another freebie for Kindle from Amazon.

A banned book until 1974, Masters writes of the lives of those buried on "The Hill". Dead men tell tales here! Masters reveals that even in small town America evil doings are afoot, just the same as the big cities. Each short poem starts with a name and some important aspect of their life. I only remember one that wasn't complaining, bitter or regretful.

A sample--

Deacon Taylor
I belonged to the church,
And to the party of prohibition;
And the
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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

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