Poetry Wednesday: Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein has been part of my life since my parents first read Free to Be . . .You and Me*, and let me put the record album on my Mickey Mouse portable turntable.  I was given Where the Sidewalk Ends for Christmas the year it came out.

That’s a long time.

Mr. Silverstein is the reason I know how to make a hippopotamus sandwich and how to eat a whale.  He’s the reason my favorite empty threat is to sell my kids to the Gypsies (“But, Mommy, they never buy the bad ones!”).  And he’s the reason I know wishing for wishes is a bad idea and unicorns aren’t too bright.

It doesn’t matter that Runny Babbit gives me aneurysms and The Giving Tree doesn’t quite work for me.**

His poetry does.

(Shel Silverstein)

Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblin gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.

I almost went with the Tall Tale Kid here, but just feel the rhythms in this one:

The Garden

(Shel Silverstein)

Ol’ man Simon, planted a diamond,
Grew hisself a garden the likes of none.
Sprouts all growin’, comin’ up glowin’,
Fruit of jewels all shinin’ in the sun.
Colors of the rainbow,
See the sun and rain grow
Sapphires and rubies on ivory vines,
Grapes of jade, just
Ready for the squeezin’ into green jade wine.
Pure gold corn there,
Blowin’ in the warm air,
Ol’ crow nibblin’ on the amnythyst seeds.
In between the diamonds, ol’ man Simon
Crawls about pullin’ out platinum weeds.
Pink pearl berries,
All you can carry,
Put ’em in a bushel and
Haul ’em into town.
Up in the tree there’s
Opal nuts and gold pears–
Hurry quick, grab a stick
And shake some down.
Take a silver tater,
Emerald tomater,
Fresh plump coral melons
Hangin’ in reach.
Ol’ man Simon,
Diggin’ in his diamonds,
Stops and rests and dreams about

A special brownie point to anyone who can name the poem that goes with the image at the top of this post!

What’s your favorite Shel Silverstein poem?  Or, in the unlikely event you don’t have one, why not?


*And what the hell is that title song doing in a Target commercial?  Don’t answer that, please, I’m too busy to blow a gasket right now.

** This is Poetry Wednesday, not Sarah Explains the Difference Between Unconditional Love and Profound Co-dependence Wednesday.


16 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Shel Silverstein

  1. Oh, and the Profound Co-dependence comment had me rolling. I could never wrap my head around that book. It just seems, dare I say it, wrong in so many ways, on so many levels.

  2. Ah, yes, good ol’ Shel. The Giving Tree sat front and center of our empty bookcase. It’s definitely a study in perspective. My mother loved that book because she identified with the tree. My husband hates that book because he despises the boy. I just remember the illustrations. The simplicity of his lines made sense to me and fueled my imagination. I like his Light in the Attic, too. The poem about doing dishes was great and while I never took his advice, I admit the thought did cross my mind.

    P.S. Hug-o-War?

  3. You know, when you asked for a favorite, I couldn’t come up with a single Silverstein poem, but just reading the titles that others came up with instantly brought back memories for me. Maybe I need to dust off my copies and do a bit of reading. (Never a bad thing!)

  4. I like the fact that he wrote lyrics for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (On the Cover of the Rolling Stone). I was also a big fan of Free to Be…You and Me. My sister and I would listen to that record over and over again. I was taken aback by the title songs use in a commercial…but in these times, nothing is “sacred.” It did serve to remind me how much I liked that song as a boy. Sorry, not much about Shel here. I’m not as familiar with his poetry, though my kids liked it. It’s very melodic…I suppose that’s why he was a decent lyricist as well.

    • His stuff is melodic, isn’t it? Or at least good scat. I remember singing the Unicorn Song in elementary school.

      I wonder if poetry is easer for musicians, or if all poets hear music anyway?

      • I think all poets have a knack for musical interpretation. Rhythm, phrasing, the tones of different sounding words…it all crosses over. Technically speaking, it is also probably easy for musicians to construct poetry (particularly strict forms). Whether they manage to make it relevant and interesting to readers is another issue. ….um ….was that a rhetorical question?

        • Nope—not rhetorical at all! 🙂

          And I think I agree that musicians must have a good ear for poetry—and for singers it must be essential.

  5. First, the image goes with “Hug O’ War”, “where everyone hugs instead of tugs”. 🙂 Second, my favorite Shel Silverstein poem is the opening poem of “Where The Sidewalk Ends” titled “If you are a dreamer…”. As a child with a fantastic imagination, this poem always spoke to me. Third, not to be a pain, but your copy of “The Garden” seems to be missing a line. It should be “Grapes of jade, just ripin’ in the shade, just ready for the squeezin’ into green jade wine”. I have many of my favorite poems by Shel memorized. After all, I’ve been reading his poems for the last 38 years or so. P.S. -Sorry I’m so late to the party. I am in the middle of a move and can’t find my copy of “Where The Sidewalk Ends”. I was looking for a copy of “The Garden”, so that my daughter can read it for her school.

    • Better late than never! 🙂

      I’m sorry that this “Garden” isn’t quite right. I’ll dig up my own copy and fix that line ASAP–thank you for letting me know!

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s