BORN: August 23, 1868, Garnett, Kansas
DIED: March 5, 1950, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania
IDENTIFICATION: Early twentieth-century Illinois writer who articulated the complex realities of life in a small midwestern town.
Although Edgar Lee Masters wrote fifty books on such diverse topics as American history, law, and literature, he is most remembered for only two: Spoon River Anthology (1915) and The New Spoon River (1924). In these two volumes of poetry, deceased residents of Spoon River buried in the fictional towns cemetery recite short poems in which they describe their perceptions of life in their central Illinois town. The poetic skill and diversity of voices in these two collections overshadowed all of Masters's other work, including his autobiography, Across Spoon River (1936), and his biography of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln: The Man (1931).