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Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

So begins the journey to Where the Sidewalk Ends, and the entrance to Shel Silvertein's world. It's a world where camel's wear brassieres, a walrus gets braces, and you can find the recipe for a hippopotimus sandwitch. As Bob Minzesheimer of USA TODAY put it, "He began as a cartoonist for Playboy. He wrote plays and country music lyrics. But Shel Silverstein...will be remembered best for writing deceptively silly poems for children and grown-ups....Beyond books, Silverstein wrote a screenplay with David Mamet (Things Change), lyrics for Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue) and a play (The Lady or the Tiger Show)." It is those silly pooks of poems and drawings that he will be remembered for, though. When I packed up everything to move into my college dorm room, I only bought about 25 of my favorite books with me. Only 25 out of hundreds of books we have at my house, and all three of my Shel Silverstein books were in that bunch. Never having met the man, I can still say I will miss him. I grew up reading Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. Falling Up was a Chritmas present when I was 16, but I still loved it. When I was in Jr. High, I read his poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" for a poetry contest. I even managed to work another of his poems, "Listen to the Mustn'ts" into a college applecation essay. That poem is probably my all time  favorite. It says: 

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,
the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child, 
Anything can be. 

Silly as it is, that's one of the truths I live my life by, because as silly as many of his poems were, they held lessons, and even the ones that didn't taught us to be different, be ourselves, and above all to question everything. 

"Signals"

When the light is green you go.
When the light is red you stop.
But what do you do 
When the light turns blue
With orange and lavender spots?


Ok, so maybe that's not the best example, but it's true, he did teach us to question, and to reach beyond, and to not give up, and all the other little lessons that are so necessary in life. And most importantly he did it by having fun, and making people laugh. I have to agree with Bob Minzesheimer, when he said that In Light in the Attic Silverstein may have written his own epitaph: 
Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb
Do a looney-gooney dance
Cross the kitchen floor
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

It seems that this was the ultimate goal of Silverstein's life, and one he achieved, and then some.

 

Shel Silverstein was found dead of a heart attack, Monday, May 10th, 1999, in his Key West home.
He was 66.