May 11, 2012

Shel Silverstein's Invitation

        I have a confession to make.  As a child I never particularly liked Shel Silverstein's poetry.  I think what I most disliked was the very colloquialism that was always touted as making his poetry so accessible to children.  I didn't want poems that sounded like slangy normal speech.  I had no use for poems without proper rhyme and rhythm, and moreover, as you'll have guessed by now, I had a taste for romance, drama, high fantasy, and unabashedly lyrical language.
        I still prefer my poetry to be beautifully, soaringly different from prose with enjambment; however, as an adult I've come to appreciate Shel Silverstein a little more.  Some of his poems have sly messages of more depth and thoughtfulness than I originally gave him credit for.  Some are clever, some fun to recite, and many celebrate unbound imagination in just the sort of way that I'm always going on about.
        Moreover, I'm trying to represent some of the vast variety of fantasy poems here, not just my same old favorites all the time.  In that spirit, therefore, here are two of Silverstein's poems, one each: silly and thoughtful.

When singing songs of scariness,
Of bloodiness and hairyness,
I feel obligated at this moment to remind you
Of the most ferocious beast of all:
Three thousand pounds and nine feet tall --
The Glurpy Slurpy Skakagrall --
Who's standing right behind you.

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!

[Picture: Deserted House, ink drawing by Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends, Harper and Row, 1974.]
(Poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, Harper and Row, 1974.)

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