Edgar Lee Masters,
Spoon River Anthology
(1915; New American Library, 1992)

There is something fascinating about looking at life backwards, from end to beginning. That is what Edgar Lee Masters offers us with his biting, poetic vision of the human experience.

Many poems, all of which are delightfully concise, conclude with proverbs that rival those of the Bible itself. "This is life's sorrow," he writes in "Herbert Marshal," "That one can be happy only where two are/And that our hearts are drawn to stars/which want us not."

Masters, perhaps unknowingly, includes occasional glimpses of eastern philosophy as well, such as in "Griffy the Cooper," in which he writes, "You are submerged in the tub of yourself/Taboos and rules and appearances/Are the Staves of your tub/Break them and dispel the witchcraft/Of thinking your tub is life/And that you know life!" The essence of Taoism or Buddhism is hidden within the little tightly woven masterpieces of this poetry collection.

On a more down-to-earth level, if you aren't confronted with reflections of yourself at some time while reading these poems, you're not really reading. This book is an obligation for every human being.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 1 March 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.