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Spoon River Anthology 
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Post Spoon River Anthology
Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.

Great book.

From Wikipedia:

Spoon River Anthology (1915), by Edgar Lee Masters, is a collection of short, free verse poems that collectively narrates the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_River_Anthology

Gutenberg versions:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1280


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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
I put together this pdf of Spoon River Anthology a while back. At the link below. You can right-click your mouse and Save As to place it on your hard drive, to read at your convenience. It's a fascinating book.

https://mikesheedy.com/wp-content/uploa ... hology.pdf


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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
I read the first several and found them really interesting, now I want to finish them all. Of course, I grew up in New Hampshire where old and older cemeteries are everywhere for the perusing.


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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
And I wished that I could be, how I wished that I could be - - Richard Cory.



Fri May 11, 2018 2:45 am
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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
I read Spoon River Anthology many years ago (too many to remember). I must admit all I can really remember about it is the synopsis... poems relating to epitaphs in a cemetery. :blush: Will have to pull it up and look at it again. :hmm:


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Fri May 11, 2018 4:53 pm
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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
The storytelling device of interlocking observations from the dead was revolutionary. The book had a big influence on American fiction writers for a couple of decades.


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Fri May 11, 2018 11:18 pm
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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
So I picked up a few, almost at random. They are story-telling and they are poetry. A nice blend, and one I am aiming for the story side of, but hope to learn a bit of poetry side from Masters.

Emily Sparks, the teacher, with a name given by a slightly heavy hand, seeks only that her favorite student, Reuben Pantier, whose father was a gay lawyer and his disappointed mother was bitter, find "that all the clay of you, all the dross of you, may yield to the fire of you, til your fire is nothing but light!" Reuben loved her, and left to see the world, where he "passed through every peril known, of wine and women and joy of life" but amounted to little. On the Rue de Rivoli a painted woman saw his eyes tear up and thought she had conquered him, but it was Emily Sparks, the teacher who had prayed for his soul, who brought tears to his distracted eyes.

The interlocking longing is astonishing and overwhelming. Reuben's father, quoting Wordsworth compulsively, without any sense that the poetry lifts him, wants only to shed his shame, one infers from his wife's damning declaration. He wants to be himself, and be accepted, and withdraws completely because it cannot be. The wife whose life he has ruined, with his status and his double nature, is filled with disgust, and she is a lady, disgusted by the onions on his breath, and "a woman well endowed" who desires to be desired. From this tragic marriage springs the bright young flame Reuben, and Emily (who loves all her students and no one else) tries to inspire him to let the flame burn, with prayer and a letter about the love of Christ.

And so Reuben (the name of the ambiguous brother of Joseph, who hates his arrogant brother, the father's favorite, but is too dutiful to let the others kill him) finds joy of life a peril, and runs away from the milliner's daughter and across the world longing for his teacher's inspiration to take root in his soul. "I owe whatever I was in life," he says to the absent Emily, "to your hope that would not give me up, to your love that saw me still as good."

The idea of life being meaningful, the possibility of real significance, can be a burden and a peril. And Reuben grew up in a house of mutual frustration. He knows much more of how to disappoint others than he does of how to find meaning. His teacher, too, then. Though she shines in his heart like the only light, he knows himself to have disappointed her hopes and dreams.



Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:04 pm
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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
Having read a bunch from the beginning, I am a bit startled by the frequency of the theme of disappointment. It comes up in many forms, but mostly these people, down as far as Judge Somers at least, are bitter.

Masters is interested in ironies of life, and those would naturally give rise to interest in the bitterness. But I begin to feel there is nothing of the ordinariness in "Our Town", for example. Did he only know frustrated people, who found no joy in the life they lived?

I have to add a certain suspicion that the life of a writer is partly responsible. Writers are caught in a strange eddy of ambition and frustration. Most are never recognized or appreciated. In most cases that is because their stuff is nothing special, and has nothing of the mythic or the epic about it (as I am learning, it is not so hard to generate solid prose, but really tough to bring to life on the page the deep currents that make life so vital).

But even if they make something of real value, as Masters does, they are likely not to be recognized. People tend to read with entertainment values in mind, and not to see fine quality inventiveness and searching honesty even when it is staring them in the face. Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville make good examples. Both went almost unrecognized in their time, with their true genius only being identified after their deaths.

Self-confidence is the engine of creativity. It needs much more, but without that it will sputter into lethargy. Where do great writers get the clarity of vision that preserves their self-confidence in the face of decade after decade of obscurity? I suspect it is rather common for that clarity to sour into the twisted bile that Masters features here. The main source of clarity, he seems to be saying, is the jaundiced disappointment we feel after our hopes are dashed by others, with it hardly mattering whether the others are hostile abusers or merely inadequate losers.

And so I have a second bone to pick with Masters. This is America he is talking about. Fine, we are all familiar with the stifling loneliness of the culturally barren fields, forests and prairies. But it was still an incredible opportunity materially. Masters makes reference to them in a place or two, but only to acknowledge the lack of fulfillment in material affluence. Far be it from me to quarrel with that: Richard Cory was a landmark in the spiritual life of my teens. But I know enough of life to know that not all of these achievers and aspirers were frustrated and embittered. Some people's dreams do come true, and, just as with Joni Mitchell's lyrics, their dreams lose some grandeur in the process. But they do not, in the main, fall to ashes.



Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:58 pm
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Post Re: Spoon River Anthology
Reading poems piecemeal from the book is like looking at individual bits of a puzzle. The poems are interesting little biographies, but they add up to a whole story, like a novel. And Masters may not have made up all of the stories. Perhaps he was, in part, just reporting on morbidity he observed. From an article:

...Masters gleaned tidbits of stories and gossip he heard during the time he spent in Lewistown and nearby Petersburg, where his grandparents lived. In some cases, Masters barely changed their names. Henry Phipps was really banker Henry Phelps. Harry Wilmans was Henry Wilmans. In a few instances, he used real names, such as William H. Herndon, the law partner of Abraham Lincoln, and Anne Rutledge, considered Lincoln’s first love.

Meant to be read as a novel, the reader is required to piece together narratives from single lines and fragments contained in individual poems. Minerva Jones tells us she was raped by Butch Weldy and died during an abortion. Doctor Meyers, the abortionist, blames Minerva for his own death in jail saying, “I tried to help her out.” Mrs. Meyers, the doctor’s wife, believes her husband deserved the town’s scorn for breaking “the law human and divine.” Butch Weldy, on the other hand, never mentions the rape but tells us he “got religion and steadied down.”

The book was a literary sensation and huge commercial success. Carl Sandburg wrote in the Little Review, “The people whose faces look out from the pages of the book are the people of life itself, each trait of them as plain or as mysterious as in the old home valley where the writer came from. Such a writer and book are realized here.” Ezra Pound rejoiced in the London Egoist: “At last the American West has produced a poet . . . capable of dealing with life directly, without circumlocution, without resonant meaningless phrases. Ready to say what he has to say, and shut up when he [has] said it.”...

neh.gov/humanities/2015/novemberdecembe ... comeback-i


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