Culture August 2, 2018
Poetry for everyone at all ages.
When I was little, a very worn copy of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” was one of my favorite books. The pages were dog-eared to hell, the dust jacket was terribly torn. I’m pretty sure that if I somehow found this book in storage, there would be snack crumbs between the pages of these Shel Silverstein poems.
Silverstein’s poems are cheeky and playful, accompanied by outrageous illustrations. They’re hilarious and creepy and often bizarre. They’re wildly inappropriate and unexpectedly morbid. But, more than anything, Silverstein’s poetry is always incredibly relatable. What’s remarkable is that now, many years later, his words are just as relevant as they were when I was little. Perhaps more so.
Silverstein is most famous for his children’s books, but his poetry has something to offer everyone. Here are 13 poignant Silverstein poems that have much to say about life, love and growing up.
The pressure to adjust to other’s opinions only increases as we get older. Perhaps you haven’t followed the career path your parents intended. You don’t “blah blah blah.” As we’re constantly inundated with information about who and what we should become, Silverstein reminds us that there’s an ever-present voice inside each of us. And we should not ignore it. Ultimately, only you can make the best decisions leading to your happiness.
This poem goes out to all of the creators, in any sense of the word. Whether you dance, draw, laugh or sing, you have something to offer. It’s also a reminder not to take yourself too seriously. Never underestimate the value of being silly. Putting a smile on someone’s face is never overrated.
This is a lesson in leading by example. When inviting others to open up and express themselves, practice what we preach. To make someone comfortable sharing with you, consider taking the first step.
Sorry Silverstein, but modern scientific theory proposes that zebras are, in fact, black with white stripes. That being said, this poem’s message still rings true. It’s undoubtedly easier to categorize people using neat, clean boxes. “So-and-so is a bad person. Such-and-such isn’t as smart as his brother.” Unfortunately, we aren’t so easily defined, and neither are the people we love. We’re complex and often contradictory individuals. We’re many things at once wrapped up in a not-so-neat package. And that’s okay.
It doesn’t get much more relatable than this. When living life to the fullest, sometimes it feels like there’s not much left to give.
The days spent pretending to be okay are often the hardest. We put on a brave face for the world all the while feeling so fragile, we could fall apart instantly. But, as this poem reminds us, it’s okay not to smile all the time. It’s okay to be uncertain.
A friendship will be truly rewarding when there’s investment of time and love. The value of your life can only be measured by you and how much you give and how much you care.
Like most kids that grew up reading Harry Potter, and honestly most kids in general, there was a desperate wanting for magic to be real. I wanted a letter from Hogwarts to arrive in the mail. I wanted the back of my closet to lead me to a snowy and mysterious kingdom. It wasn’t to be. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain “magic” in the world as we know it. We create special memories with our loved ones. We form bonds that take our breath away.
So, while I might not be sorted into Hufflepuff any time soon, I can make my own magic.
This poem is wonderful because Silverstein acknowledges that humans come in a very large variety pack. There’s big, small, rich, poor and all colors imaginable. Despite all this, at the end of the day a lot of these differences exist only within our minds. If only we could get this information to Congress.
Friendships will change over time. Someone you’ve known since birth might choose to follow a different path than the one you’ve chosen. Remember, we’re all growing in different ways.
This poem advises us not to waste our childhoods. You will never get to be the age you are again, so treasure every moment of life.
This poem is what I like to call an emotional rollercoaster. “Happy Ending?” is truly masterful because in four simple lines it manages to uplift and emotionally destroy me. Silverstein provokes wondering if there is ever such a thing as a happy ending. Even the most joyous adventures are bittersweet when they come to a close. Perhaps all we can ask for is a happy beginning.
You didn’t think I was actually going to end on such a gloomy note, did you? I like to think of this as Silverstein’s goodbye to his readers. We shouldn’t mourn his absence for too long.
Now, it’s our turn to create.
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