Past Event


A Road Scholar Program by John Hallwas

A hundred years ago, our state produced what was arguably the first great literary development in America that was not centered on the East Coast: the “Chicago Renaissance.” The two most celebrated new poets of this “Chicago Renaissance” were Illinoisans, and they produced two of the best-known volumes of poetry in our state’s history.

One of them, Edgar Lee Masters, published the first version of his influential Spoon River Anthology in 1915, followed by a longer, final edition in 1916. The 243 speakers in that famous book are dead people, speaking from their graves in a small-town cemetery, revealing their poignant and fascinating experiences and insights as they reflect upon their lives.

The second, Carl Sandburg, launched his poetic career with the publication of his powerful collection, Chicago Poems, in 1916. It was a tradition-shattering book, written in free verse and focused substantially on city life. It revealed the poet’s empathetic identification with the lives of ordinary people, who were often struggling. He was a witness to harsh, urban realities.

John Hallwas, a literary scholar and teacher, has published editions of both Spoon River Anthology and Chicago Poems and has spoken in more than 100 Illinois communities. He introduces audiences to the poetry of Masters and Sandburg contained in their two famous books published a century ago. The lively lecture-with-readings presentation can include both poets, or it can focus on just one poet or the other, depending on the interests of host organizations and local audiences.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Kristin Terry,