Cheering Myself Up With Shel Silverstein

Shel SilversteinLet me state right out that last year, I was in no condition to celebrate the birthday of William Faulkner. And on this, his 121st birthday (It is technically possible!), I am in even worse condition. As always, the usual: great writer, blah, blah, blah. I really do love his work. All those Southern Gothic writers are great. But he so depresses me. Was it really necessary?

On this day in 1930, the great writer Shel Silverstein was born. And I’m not even going to talk about him. I’m just going to present some of his work. I don’t do this for you, although I do hope that you will enjoy it. I do it just to cheer myself up. He is always good for that!

Let’s start with a satirical song written by Silverstein, “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Just to be clear, the band, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, is made up of a bunch of spazzes who did a whole lot of work with Silverstein, who wrote their entire second album.

Next we will do a little poetry. Silverstein has often been thought of as a children’s writer, but he never saw it that way. I think we have a similar outlook on life that way. I think people talk down to kids far too much. Just the same, they assume adults aren’t just kids with younger kids. Here’s a poem that is very close to my heart:

Memorizin’ Mo

Mo memorized the dictionary
But just can’t seem to find a job
Or anyone who wants to marry
Someone who memorized the dictionary.

Another one that is sly and silly and yet mystically profound:

Something Missing

I remember I put on my socks,
I remember I put on my shoes.
I remember I put on my tie
That was printed
In beautiful purples and blues.
I remember I put on my coat,
To look perfectly grand at the dance,
Yet I feel there is something
I may have forgot—
What is it? What is it? …

And for our last poem, a little encouragement:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me—
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

The Giving Tree

And finally, we have an animated reading by Silverstein himself of his sentimental and beautiful book, The Giving Tree. “And the tree was happy.”

Happy birthday Shel Silverstein!

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