Before you ask, no, I am not having a mini-stroke. Today’s post title actually comes from the amalgamation of poet, writer, screenwriter, author, and illustrator Shel Silvertein’s most notable works. Shel Silverstein will always hold a very special place in my heart as one of my earliest literary idols. His freedom and style with poetry is right up there with Jon Scieszka and his bastardized (read: improved) fairy tales. There was something so cool about reading Shel Silverstein’s poems as a child. You know you go to school and you inevitably learn about poetry but you learn about rhyming couplets and syllable counts for haikus and ABAB rhyme structure and iambic pentamenter and then suddenly you’re reading this adult who’s gone and defied all the rules and teaches you what so many have forgotten. Poetry can be fun. It can be experimental. It can be visual, auditory, tactile, it can be anything you want it to be.
His poems are often short and very simple, but can express in those few, easy to understand words, deeply powerful messages especially for young readers. He is the Dr. Seuss of ‘explain like I’m 5 years old‘. The drawings he made himself to accompany many of his poems are simple and silly but just perfectly punctuate the poem’s meanings. There was something subtly adult about his poems and pictures. Maybe it was the lack of big bold straight shapes or subject material sometimes of his poems. Me Stew is literally about a chef who, having nothing else to serve in his stew, stews himself! I think he wrote these poems knowing that the children who read them would one day become adults, and would want to revisit them and realize he had hidden so much more to be enjoyed and appreciated even later on in life.
I remember reading one of his books of poetry and having to physically take my book and turn it, twist it, flip it upside down, to follow the long and winding trail of words that he had written across a two-page spread to turn the poem itself into the accompanying image of it. He was the first person to really show me that visually you could play with the wording and spacing and physically you could create a new reading experience by changing the way you held the book. I mean, to a kid, this was like, mind-shattering revelations. We were changing the way people read and held their books. He used as many senses as possible to make poetry fun and interesting. I was moving and manipulating the book to read poems, or looking at poems shaped as other things. He was the great innovator of my youthful literary adventures.
I think nowadays that’s what’s missing in so many aspects of our life. The spirit of fun and adventure and innovation. We spend a good long time learning about the forms of things and trying so hard to capture and perfect that but we forget to learn the essence of these things. And that’s where you get to play the most; when you know you’re true to spirit you can experiment with form. There’s a lot of fun missing in a lot of the things we do. Or did. Or are doing. Fun should not be the outlier in the characteristics of our life.
Man: 240 Loneliness: 33