Shel Silverstein 2 Essay, Research Paper
Shel Silverstein, an exemplary poet born in 1932 Chicago, Illinois is still among us today. He is an extremely opinionated and open-minded man who has effected may children and adults and benefited important parts of modern society.
Silverstein’s knack for appealing to all ages in a single book first became apparent when he published The Giving Tree in 1964. The Giving Tree could slant in two directions. It s a little too sad for children, and kind of simple for adults. Although, churches and teachers found it necessary to use it as a parable for society. Each book was a pure example of energetic wordplay. A Light In the Attic, published in 1981, scored a major breakthrough for children’s literature when it captured the number one spot on the adult, nonfiction, best seller list, a position it occupied for several weeks. Where The Sidewalk Ends, published after A Light In The Attic, was considered a children’s classic. Each was a special book filled with realistically funny poems. Two of them adored by many read:
“Cloony the Clown”
I’ll tell you a story of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through the town?
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
He just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.
He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand balloons.
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.
And every time he did a trick,
Everyone felt a little sick.
And every time he told a joke,
Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke.
And every time he lost a shoe,
Everyone looked awfully blue.
And every time he stood on his head,
Everyone screamed, “Go back to bed!”
And every time he made a leap,
Everyone fell asleep.
And every time he ate his tie,
Everyone began to cry.
And Cloony could not make any money
Simply because he was not funny.
One day he said, ” I’ll tell this town
How it feels to be an unfunny clown.”
And he told them all why he looked so sad,
And he told them all why he felt so bad.
He told them of Pain and Rain and Cold,
He told of darkness in his soul,
And after he finished his tale of woe,
Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no,
They laughed until they shook the trees
With ” hah-hah-hahs” and “hee-hee-hees.”
They laughed with howls and yells and shrieks,
They laughed all day, they laughed all week.
They laughed until they had a fit,
They laughed until their jackets split.
The laughter spread for miles around
To every city, every town,
Over mountains, ‘cross the sea,
From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee.
And soon the whole world rang with laughter,
Lasting till forever after,
While Cloony stood in the circus tent,
With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.
And he said, ” THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT –
I”M FUNNY JUST BY ACCIDENT.”
And while the world laughed outside,
Cloony the clown sat down and cried.
– A Light in the Attic
Small as a peanut,
Big as a giant,
Were all the same sizes
When we turn off the light.
Rich as a sultan,
Poor as a mite,
We’re all worth the same
When we turn off the light.
Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.
So maybe the way
To make everything right
Is for God to just reach out
And turn off the light!
– Where the Sidewalk Ends
” When I was a kid, 12, 14, around there, I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance. Luckily, the girls didn’t want me; not much I could do about that. So, I started to draw and write.” ( Silverstein,211) From his words it is clear to see how his career began. Due to the way he started writing, almost as a last resort, a desperate reach for a way to express himself, he achieved and learned so much in and from life. Shel was never a big fan of any real literary figures. He learned to make an example of himself. ” I was much into my thirties until I really noticed other writers around me, it was probably a good thing.” ( Silverstein, 213 ) He went on personal instinct and trust. In his earliest days he wrote as an editorialist for a local press. Those stories consisted mostly of community gossip and leisure activities. Later he moved on to write unique poetry that better held his interest.
People could learn so much from a man like Shel Silverstein. Everybody takes up a hobby or career for different reasons and all pursue them differently. Many do the things they do for money. Shel doesn’t praise the money yet he feels it s nice to have. He worked very hard to get where he is although he doesn’t feel he’s anywhere special. He thinks he’s exactly the same as everyone else, yet his writing ability is a little more polished than others. He feels that everyone has the talent they just have to find it. And although money is a part of life, he’d rather see a million children smiling over a poem he wrote than receive a million dollars. He’s always been ready for anything. ” I was always prepared for success, but I have to be prepared for failure too.” (Silverstein, 210) Without both the good and the bad it just wouldn’t feel complete to Shel. He has made very few appearances of any sorts. When he has made them and autographs have been a request, after a flattered smile, he many times refuses. He feels he is a person as everyone else therefore his signature is no more special than anyone else s. These views are quite a part of what attracts a lot of readers to this particular poet. ” Children and elderly parties like to be treated as anyone else, not as children and elderly parties.” (Silverstein, 283) He is a true figure of equality and has proved through writing.
Each day when people dress, they put on clothes that represent their style. This is visible style we see on each other’s bodies. As with getting dressed, writers make their style visible on paper. A style is what a person makes it. In writing, it’s the way the writer chooses to form words and sentences in order to create the intended effect. Each writer’s style is special in the way that it’s usually like no one else s. Yet, Silverstein’s is especially unique.
Silverstein loves to write nonsense verse. It’s primarily whatever he feels like producing. Usually the pen hits the paper forming sentences that come in any old order but have an appealing outcome to people of all ages. He’s been known to write about bodily functions in humorous ways. Personification is top on the list of things one must have in a piece for him. He personifies common, everyday things and allows people to view them in a whole new way. An example of this was taken from Where the Sidewalk Ends; its title is “Hungry Mungry :
” Hungry Mungry ”
Hungry Mungry sat at supper,
Took his knife and spoon and fork,
Ate a bowl of mushroom soup, ate a slice of roasted pork,
Ate a dozen stewed tomatoes, twenty-seven deviled eggs,
Fifteen shrimps, nine baked potatoes,
Thirty-two fried chicken legs,
A shank of lamb, a boiled ham,
Two bowls of grits, some blackeye peas,
Four chocolate shakes, eight angel cakes,
Nine custer pies with muenster cheese,
Ten pots of tea, and after he
Had eaten all that he was able,
He poured some broth on the tablecloth
And ate the kitchen table.
His parents said, ” Oh hungry Mungry, stop these silly jokes.”
Mungry opened up his mouth, and “Gulp,” he ate his folks.
And then he went and ate his house, all the bricks and wood,
And then he ate up all the people in the neighborhood,
Up came twenty angry policemen shouting, “Stop and cease.”
Mungry opened up his mouth and “Gulp” he ate the police.
Soldiers came with tanks and guns.
Said Mungry, “They can’t harm me.”
He just smiled and licked his lips and ate the U.S. Army.
The president sent all his bombers- Mungry still was calm,
Put his head back, gulped the planes, and gobbled up the bomb.
He ate the town and ate the city- ate and ate and ate-
And then he said, ” I think I’ll eat the whole United States.”
And so he ate Chicago first and munched the Water Tower,
And then he chewed on Pittsburgh but he found it rather sour.
He ate New York and Tennessee, and all of Boston town,
Then drank the Mississippi River just to wash it down.
And when he’d eaten every state, each puppy, boy and girl
He wiped his mouth upon his sleeve and went to eat the world.
He ate the Egypt pyramids and every church in Rome,
And all the grass in Africa and all the ice in Nome.
He ate each hill in green Brazil and then to make things worse
He decided that for desert he’d eat the universe.
He started with the moon and stars and soon as he was done
He gulped the clouds; he sipped the wind and gobbled up the sun.
Then sitting there in the cold dark air,
He started to nibble his feet,
Then his legs, then his hips
Then his neck, then his lips
Till he sat there just gnashing’ his teeth
‘Cause nothin’ was nothin’ was
Nothin’ was left to eat
- Where the Sidewalk Ends
Most of his published poems are quite brief yet catchy and simple. Many times they are so silly that while reading them it is often very entertaining for almost anyone. ” The poems are tender, funny, sentimental, philosophical, and ridiculous in turn, and they’re for all ages including mine.” (William Cole, 282)
Shel Silverstein set quite an example for other writers also. He taught them other ways to get the ideas across to the readers. The images he creates.