When Spoon River Anthology was published in 1915 it garnered immediate national attention for its truth and its shocking transgression of societal mores. A collection of poems from the graveyard of a rural Illinois town, Spoon River Anthology poignantly captures the politics, love, betrayals, alliances, hopes, and failures of this small American town. Here is the respected doctor, jailed for swindling; here is the chaste wife, rapt with desire; here is the pastor, angry and resentful; here is the quiet man, filled with unrequited love and devotion. Beneath the midwestern values of honesty, community, family, hard work, and chastity, Spoon River Anthology reveals the disillusionment and corruption in modern life. With the publication of Spoon River Anthology Masters exploded the powerful myth that small-town America was a social utopia. Here for the first time was a community that people recognized in its wholeness and complexity. Comprised of distinctly modern poems that collectively read as a novel, Spoon River Anthology is the story of a quiet midwestern town whose truths and contradictions are celebrated by its dead.
Edgar Lee Masters was born in 1868 in Garnett, Kansas. He achieved fame in 1915 with the publication of Spoon River Anthology. Though he never matched the success of Spoon River Anthology, Masters was a prolific writer of diverse works. He published several volumes of poems including The Great Valley (1916), Along the Illinois (1942), The Serpent in the Wilderness (1933), and Invisible Landscapes (1935). In the 1940s he was awarded the Poetry Society of America medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Edgar Lee Masters died in Melrose, Pennsylvania, in 1950 and is buried in Petersburg, Illinois.