Masters on Spoon River Anthology
On How He Wrote Spoon River
From May 29, 1914, until about January 5, 1915, I poured the epitaphs into the Mirror, having written to Reedy that if this was what he liked I could give him all that he could print. By mid-Summer. the pieces were being quoted and parodied all over America, and they had penetrated to England. At this time I was carrying a difficult case through the Supreme Court of Illinois, and was acting for the Waitresses' Union in an injunction which kept me in court almost daily. But I was coming in contact with human nature in this counselship, and with stories of human suffering which kept my emotions at high tide, and the lenses of my inner eye magnified and polished.
All these stresses made it necessary for me to write the Anthology at odd times, such as Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Subjects, characters, dramas came into my mind faster than I could write them. Hence I was accustomed to jot down the ideas, or even the poems on backs of envelopes, margins of newspapers, when I was on the street car, or in court, or at luncheon, or at night after I had gone to bed. These notes were then amplified, and copied at large on big sheets of paper, which on Monday morning, as a rule, I took to my office, where my secretary, Jacob Prassel, an intelligent German youth, awaited me with smiles to see what I had done; and then, taking the sheets, he would turn to his typewriter and make a manuscript of faultless workmanship.
from "The Genesis of Spoon River Anthology" (p. 49)
On Spoon River's "Free Verse"
There was nothing new about free verse except in the minds of illiterate academicians and quiet formalists like William Dean Howells, who called Spoon River "shredded prose." Reedy understood all these things as well as I. He knew that Imagism was not a new thing, though he kept urging me to make the Anthology more imagistic, and I refused, except where imagism as vivid description in the Shakespearean practice was called for. I had had too much study in verse, too much practice too, to be interested in such worthless experiments as polyphonic prose, an innovation as absurd as Dadaism or Cubism or Futurism or Unanimism, all grotesqueries of the hour, and all worthless, since they were without thought, sincerity, substance.
from "The Genesis of Spoon River" (p. 48)
Return to Edgar Lee Masters