Edgar Lee Masters, 1868 - 1950 The Kansas-born poet of "Spoon River Anthology" (written in 1915), Edgar Lee Masters, wrote almost 50 volumes but continues to be known for only that one, so great was its extraordinary success. Masters was born on August 23, 1868. His characters created for the verses (which are short postmortem monologues in epitaph form) were borrowed from the old Greek Anthology. By invading the realm of social criticism usually reserved for prose fiction, "Spoon River" anticipated the mood of Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" and Sinclair Lewis's "Main Street." Masters lived near Spoon River for 11 years; it was his source of inspiration for this work. The 244 characters in the Anthology lay bare, in their own epitaphs, the hypocrisies, jealousies, frustrations and infrequent triumphs of their lives. Masters is often regarded as the last bestselling American poet. "Spoon River" has been adapted into a popular stage version that is frequently performed at colleges, high schools, and community theater.
Jerome Loving, Distinguished Professor of English at Texas A&M University, is the author ofWalt Whitman: Song of HimselfandThe Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser, both from UC Press.