The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters is a collection of autobiographical epitaphs. Through Masters’ poetry you become intimately acquainted with the residents of Spoon River and see how their lives intertwined. These poems form a fascinating story, and I recommend reading the entire book. Enjoy these excerpts referenced in American Literature (EIL3):
Also, you may find it helpful to read this biography and analysis of Masters, written by popular Yale literature professor William Lyon Phelps. For a humorous angle, don’t miss P. G. Wodehouse’s essay on poetry, as he compares the styles of Masters and Longfellow.
If you would like to read the entire poem, the 100th anniversary edition from Signet Classics is a good, unabridged version.