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Spoon River Anthology

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Spoon River Anthology (1915), by Edgar Lee Masters, is a collection of unusual, short, free-form poems that collectively describe the life of the fictional small town of Spoon River, named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters’ hometown. The collection includes two hundred and twelve separate characters, all providing two-hundred forty-four soliloquies. Each poem is an epitaph of a dead citizen, delivered by the dead themselves. They speak about the sorts of things one might expect. Some recite their histories and turning points, others make observations of life from the outside, and petty ones complain of the treatment of their graves, while few tell how they really died. Speaking without reason to lie or fear of the consequences, they construct a picture of life in their town that’s shorn of all facades. The interplay of various villagers — e.g. a bright and successful man crediting his parents for all he’s accomplished, and an old woman weeping because he is secretly her illegitimate child — forms a gripping, if not pretty, whole.
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