Tag Archives: Edgar Lee Masters “Theodore Dreiser–A Portrait”

Edgar Lee Masters, “Theodore Dreiser–A Portrait”

 

 

Edgar Lee Masters, “Theodore Dreiser–A Portrait,” The New York Times Book Review, October 31, 1915

 

 

Edgar Lee Masters, “Theodore the Poet,” Spoon River Anthology (1915)

 

A Very Bad Poem From the Book Review Archives

As we scour the past issues of the Book Review on its 125th anniversary, we have come across a lot of commissioned poetry — including this interesting specimen.

By Tina Jordan

The New York Times Book Review

April 23, 2021

 

Just as it does today, in its earliest years, the Book Review occasionally commissioned poetry — from John Masefield, Percy MacKaye (who delivered “The Heart in the Jar: A Meditation on the Nobel Prize Award for Medical Research, 1912”) and even Edgar Lee Masters of “Spoon River Anthology” fame, whose verse about Theodore Dreiser, his contemporary in the Chicago Renaissance literary movement, graced the Oct. 31, 1915, issue.

Despite the fact that it ran on Halloween — and was filled with terrifying imagery that compared Dreiser to a jack-o’-lantern, with “eyes [that] burn like a flame at the end of a funnel” and “powerful teeth” — the poem doesn’t seem to have been written as a holiday spoof. Like “Theodore: A Poet,” a homage to Dreiser that appeared in “Spoon River Anthology,” this piece was later reprinted in several books about the “Sister Carrie” novelist.

 

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I agree with Tina Jordan’s assessment of the poem.

Two lines struck me: “You could not hurt him / If he would allow himself to have a friend. …”

Dreiser didn’t “do” friends. He had — pretty much never — no close friends.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   April 2021