Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Spoon River Anthology

Little prologue:
It is May 19, 1752, and Knotley Masters and his sister escaped from home because of a bad step-mother. They settled on a small island not far from Welsh seashore. One September evening Knotley enkindled the bonfire which attracted a boat called "White Hope" to the shore. That boat was heading for the New World. Her captain sat by the fire and made a deal with the siblings. And after some months Knotley Masters and his sister were happily settling in Virginia, America.
One hundred and fifty years after this event, one of the Masters became a poet. In the beginning of magical 20. century he wrote peculiar verses inspired by an area he had grew up in, and by people who lived there. It was the area of Illinois, with rivers Spoon and Sangamon, and towns of Petersburg and Lewistown. The poet´s picture crossed the borders of Spoon River area, also the borders of Illinois, borders of American Middle West and the whole USA....
The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters was first published in 1915. It is a book of 244 poems (epitaphs) spoken by the deceased residents (212 characters) of Spoon River (fictional town named after the real river that ran near the Masters´ home town) from their graves on "the hill".
All the poems are written in free verse and are remarkable for the variety of personalities and the sincerity with which they speak. The character are known to us: outsiders with a good heart, hypocrites, penitent people, people who abuses their power, cruel moralists, people who are happy and satisfied, wretches...
It is always better to buy a book, but if you are interested, you can find the whole content here: The Spoon River Anthology .
Some poems are inspired by people aroun him, who passed him by, or even his family. Here is the list of them so you can imagine Masters´ attitude to them.
  1. William and Emily - inspired by his grandparents, the personification of honesty and principles.
  2. Aaron Hatfield and David Matlock - inspired by his grandfather.
  3. Lucinda Matlock - inspired by his grandmother.
  4. Benjamin Pantier, Mrs. Pantier and Henry Layton - inpired by his parents.
  5. Kinsey Keene and Jefferson Howard - inspired by his father.
  6. Johnnie Sayre - inspired by Mitch Miller, a friend (died tragically).
  7. Hamlet Micure - inspired by his brother who died very early.
  8. Hare Drummer and Dillard Sissman - inspired by a period of time when Masters were writing a book Mark Twain, A Portrait (1938), and became friends with Mitch Miller.
  9. Thomas Rhodes, A. D. Blood and Henry Phipps - inspired by Lewistown´s financier, former mayor of the town and the headmaster of a school.
  10. Ema Sparks - inspired by young professor of literature Mary Fisher, who revealed to him worlds of Emerson, Byron, Dickinson, Thackeraye, etc.
  11. Louise Smith, Carolina Branson, Amelia Garrick and Julia Miller - inspired by Margaret George, daughter of a priest, member of Fulton´s science society. She was his big love, inspiration and motivation. After few years their relationship broke up. Margaret felt to be fooled by Masters for the rest of her life.
  12. Editor Whedon and Robert Davidson - inspired by conservative editor of Lewistown´s newspaper. He married Margaret after splitting up with Masters. One of the most negative characters in the anthology.
  13. Alfred Moir - inspired by the whole-life love of Shelley´s poetry.
  14. Georgina Sand Miner, Daniel M´Cumbr, Tennessee Clafin Shope - these poems are inspired by a relationship with his lover Tennessee Mitchell. It was his most intensive relationship, but his wife didn´t want to sign the divorce papers and so the lover visited the wife...
  15. J. Swift Sommers and Webster Ford - they are voices of Masters himself.
For more information about Edgar Lee Masters and his work visit these sites:

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