Book Review – Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

Spoon River AnthologySpoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Throw Back Thursday Book Review
Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I would re-visit one of my favorite collections of free verse poems, Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

When I first reviewed, Spoon River Anthology back in 2012, I wrote:

“Spoon River Anthology is a fascinating collection of poetic epithets where the dead, sleeping on the hill, rise and give some insights into their lives, their deaths, their triumphs and their tragedies. Many of the poems intersect and interact, giving the reader little glimpses into life in Spoon River with all its scandals and ironies, its harsh, ugly realities and occasional moments of touching emotion and beauty.”

Looking back at this review, I think I may have been remiss in not giving Masters enough credit for his brilliant use of tone, voice, and perspective. The book contains over 200 poems, each told by a different person and each with its own distinct style and personality. The poems have a wide range of mood and tone, from tragic to really quite funny and from dry, prosaic practicality to flights of poetic fancy and moments of philosophical musing. I love how several poems visit and re-visit the same event from different points of view, giving the reader a more subtle glimpse into the motives and character of the various people involved and adding layers of Rashomon – like complexity to the story but what I like most about Spoon River Anthology is that so much of it lies beneath the surface – somewhat fitting for a book where every character is buried in a graveyard – and how there is always some new nuance or connection to uncover.

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2 Responses to Book Review – Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

  1. Yes, Spoon River… I first encountered it in high school when I participated in a musical (yes!) version of it (backstage, I was, playing guitar) — it’s a brilliant collection, with unforgettable lines – like Petit the poet, mourning his tiny vision:

    Triolets, villanelles, rondels, rondeaus,
    Seeds in a dry pod, tick, tick, tick,
    Tick, tick, tick, what little iambics,
    While Homer and Whitman roared in the pines?

  2. Funny enough, I first discovered it through a play as well. My sister was in a non-musical theatrical version of Spoon River wen she was in high school. She played Emily Sparks (among other characters).

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