Shel Silverstein: “…I am writing these poems from inside a lion…”

(Click on the picture to read the poem, too.)

Because 1) April is National Poetry Month, and 2) I’m apparently not grown-up enough to move on to more serious books, and 3) I’m dying to showcase one of my favorite children’s poets ever:

We now proudly present… Shel Silverstein!

Chances are he’s not new to people. Shel Silverstein was famous even before his death in 1999. He was best known for his quirky, hilarious, sometimes macabre, fantastical writing for children. Many kids know him for titles like “Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” while many parents know him because they cried their way through “The Giving Tree.”

But did you also know these bits of trivia?

  • Shel Silverstein wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue,”  made popular by Johnny Cash
  • Apparently, it’s the thing to get Shel Silverstein tattoos–that is, tattoos of Silverstein cartoons–printed on oneself. The most unique one I found was here (it’s the picture from the poem “The Mehoo with an Exactlywatt”).
  • He was a talented cartoonist who was best known for the comic below. It makes me laugh every time.

May this be your inspiration to go out and read a Shel Silverstein poem to yourself and the stranger sitting next to you. Do so with gusto. Or at least enjoy these pen-and-ink treasures.

Happy weekend!


8 thoughts on “Shel Silverstein: “…I am writing these poems from inside a lion…”

  1. Very entertaining, thank you. Just for the record, I did’nt cry reading the giving tree, But I still have it. He must have been a deep person to have such simple wit.

  2. I bet if you read Shel Silversteen in an airport, you’ll start giggling and the stranger next to you will WANT to read what your reading. Ahhh Shel Silversteen.
    I’m all for Billy Collins now that you have told me about him too.
    Please post that poetry website that he is on. Thanks!

  3. @Gary-“He must have been a deep person to have such simple wit.”

    That’s nice. I stopped and read that several times :). I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think it’s true.

    @Josie-Ah, yes, Billy Collins, wonderfully accessible poetry. I’m glad you like him! Me too! Were you referring to the video of Collins reading his poem “The Lanyard”?
    It’s here: While you’re there, check out “One Boy Told Me” by Naomi Shihab Nye here:
    (There are just some poems meant to be read aloud.)

  4. Hey Elena! I appreciate this post so much. I always looked forward to my 1st grade teacher reading Shel Silverstein books to our class. I thought they were extremely creative. Thanks for posting. See ya around school 🙂

    • Thanks Krista! I liked him as a kid too–I still do! Especially the ones about things I’d thought before, like not taking the trash out or the little girl who died because she couldn’t have a pony. (“She warned us!” her parents said.) It made me feel better 🙂
      Thanks for reading!

  5. Your post made me really start to think about why Shel Silverstein has become so popular and what we can learn from that as writers. He does not seem to be afraid to write about the common questions of childhood (“where the sidewalk ends”) with the life experience of an adult. He seems to have such a raw, uncensored style, like he portrays reality as he sees it, or as it should be, or as a child believes it is…

    I would love to know your opinion on why his work is so unique and gripping.


    • Wow, thanks for asking Hannah, I’m honored. I’d like to hear your thoughts. I totally agree, about his “raw, uncensored style”–love the fact that he sees things differently and runs with it. That’s how kids work. Before we get used to clichés and trite phrases, we have tons of imagination and wonder in the world. It’s wonderful! So maybe that’s part of it…

      I also know that if I were to turn any poetry like his for my classes, it would never pass… so I’m not sure.

      I’d love to throw this open–what do other people think about Shel Silverstein’s popular appeal?

      • I think Hannah’s statement that Silverstein writes as a “child believes it” [should happen] is definitely part of what makes him so popular. We all relate to the kid who didn’t want to take the trash out or do the dishes or who would just DIE without a pony. And his elaboration of this ‘reality’ makes it all the funnier or poignant to us. I like the word ‘raw’ in describing him.

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