Knox scholar comments on poet Edgar Lee Masters

From: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

… Inspired by a cemetery in one of the western Illinois towns where he grew up, writer Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) published the first Spoon River poems in a St. Louis literary journal, Reedy’s Mirror, in 1914. When his book “Spoon River Anthology” came out the following year, Masters achieved something rare among poets: instant acclaim, both popular and critical — and lasting acclaim as well.

This weekend, Soundstage Productions [in St. Louis] mounts Charles Aidman’s 1963 theatrical adaptation…

Masters spent about a year at the Knox Academy [Knox College’s preparatory school].

“When I take my students to visit the graves (that inspired Masters), they are moved,” said poet Robin Metz, a professor of English at Knox. “They understand that his work is about a central American conflict: the conflict between the individual and the community.” Metz said that Masters’ work spoke to the nature, and the strain, of small-town life that was a major American cultural war of the early 20th century.

“There are cemeteries where you can find some of the names that Masters used,” said Knox theater professor Elizabeth Carlin-Metz, Robin Metz’s wife. In other cases, he changed names so slightly that he didn’t disguise a thing. “These were genuine personages in Lewistown and its environs,” she said. “It was a scandal.”