Book Review – Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

Now that the semester is coming to a close, I will have more time to read things of my own choosing and write up book reviews for the site. I thought I would start with an old favorite of mine: Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River anthology.

Spoon River AnthologySpoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

View all my reviews

Some of my favorite selections from Spoon River include:

Roscoe Pirkapile
She loved me. Oh! how she loved me!
I never had a chance to escape
From the day she first saw me.
But then after we were married I thought
She might prove her mortality and let me out ,
Or she might divorce me.
But few die, none resign.
Then I ran away and was gone a year on a lark.
But she never complained. She said all would be well,
That I would return. And I did return.
I told her that while taking a row in a boat
I had been captured by Van Buren Street
By pirates on Lake Michigan,
And kept in chains so I could not write her.
She cried and kissed me, and said it was cruel,
outrageous, inhuman!
I then concluded our marriage
Was a divine dispensation
And could not be dissolved,
Except by death.
I was right.

Mrs. Purkapile
He ran away and was gone for a year.
When he came home he told me the silly story
Of being kidnapped by pirates on Lake Michigan
And kept in chains so he could not write me.
I pretended to believe it, though I knew very well
What he was doing, and that he met
The milliner, Mrs. Williams, now and then
When she went to the city to buy goods, as she said.
But a promise is a promise
And marriage is marriage
And out of respect for my own character
I refused to be drawn into a divorce
By the scheme of a husband who had merely grown tired
Of his marital vow and duty.

Margaret Fuller Slack
I would have been as great as George Eliot
But for an untoward fate.
For look at the photograph of me made by Penniwit,
Chin resting on hand, and deep-set eyes –
Gray, too, and far-searching.
But there was the old, old problem:
Should it be celibacy, matrimony or unchastity?
Then John Slack, the rich drugget, wooed me,
Luring me with the promise of leisure for my novel,
And I married him, giving birth to eight children,
And had no time to write.
It was all over with me, anyway,
When I ran the needle in my hand
While washing the baby’s things
And died from lock-jaw, an ironical death.
Hear me, ambitious souls,
Sex is the curse of life!

Reuben Pantier
Well, Emily Sparks, your prayers were not wasted.
Your love was not all in vain.
I owe whatever I was in life
To your hope that would not give me up,
To your love that saw me still as good.
I pass the effect of my father and mother;
The milliner’s daughter made me trouble
And out I went in the world
Where I passed through every peril known
Of wine and women and joy of life.
One night, in a room in the Re de Rivoli,
I was drinking wine with a black-eyed cocotte,
And the tears swam into my eyes.
She thought they were amorous tears and smiled
For thought of her conquest over me.
But my soul was three thousand miles away,
In the days when you taught me in Spoon River.
And just because you no more could love me,
Nor pray for me, nor write me letters,
The eternal silence of you spoke instead.
And the black-eyed cocotte took the tears for hers,
As well as the deceiving kisses I gave her.
Somehow, from that hour, I had a new vision –
Dear Emily Sparks!

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About Ciarrai

Hi. My name is Kerry but here online I tend to go by the Gaelic version of my name, Ciarrai. I am a woman in my mid-30's who lives on Long Island, NY, with my husband, Rob, several guitars, a Nikon D40, more yarn, beads and books than I care to admit to and a cat who has a million nicknames and quite a few theme songs. I have a B.A. in Psychology and have recently returned to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I can eventually get a job as a High School English teacher. In addition to my major obsessions (Reading, Beading, Knitting, Music and Photography), I also enjoy playing Board Games, going to Renaissance Faires, Museums and Broadway Musicals.
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