Thursday, March 1, 2012

Edgar Lee Masters

Spoon River Anthology is a collection of poems written by Edgar Lee Masters. The poems were written by dead members of a fictional town, and were about their lives and their deaths. Some were happy, some sad, some religious, and some written by the wicked. When comparing them to transcendentalism, it becomes clear that Masters received some influence from their writings, though perhaps in an indirect manner.

In addition to describing the relationships people had with other members of his town, Masters also writes with a specific individualism in certain poems. According to Temple Cone, the Spoon River Anthology is sort of about finding a good balance between individuality and the relationships with other people that exist in Spoon River. Transcendentalists like Emerson really thought that the individual should not be influenced by other people at all, and wrote about such things very often (Emerson). The way Masters mixes individuality with community shows that he was probably influenced by the Transcendentalists, though it was either not very strongly or he was influenced by a person who was influenced by Emerson and Thoreau (second hand transcendentalism).

Along with his inclusion of individualism in his writing, Masters also uses a fairly unique writing style in his poems. The short little stories are written in free verse poetry. The style of writing without a set meter or any rhyming was first made popular by Walt Whitman, but was still quite new when masters chose to use it. The Transcendentalists often did controversial things, like spending a night in jail as Thoreau did. Free verse poetry was still very new and likely not well accepted when Masters chose to use it, but like the great and powerful Thoreau, he did what he thought would be best without much thought of whether it would be accepted.

Masters was also influenced by Walt Whitman, who was somewhat influenced by the Transcendentalists. In Master's poem about a poet, he writes about how small the writer's poetry seems in comparison to Whitman's poems. He writes with a portion of the same feeling Whitman does, and if it was possible to describe it well enough to make it understood then people would stop writing stories and spend all of their time writing about it. However, as it has not been found to be possible yet, people use stories as a vessel for the emotion they just can not describe.

Cone, Temple. "Spoon River Anthology." In Kimmelman, Burt, and Temple Cone, eds. The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 March, 2012. CTAP0520&SingleRecord=True.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25 Jan. 2012.

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