Shel Silverstein Chris Senn March 6, 2000 572 55 3153 Research Paper While I was growing up as a child, there were three authors whose works I read devoutly. One was Dr. Seuss and I liked his books so much that I am proud to say I have read every one published. The second author who had a profound impact on me was Jan Bernstein who is responsible for that loveable family The Bernstein Bears. The third is a poet, which is odd because I never have liked poetry.
Shel Silversteins childrens poetry books were the only poetry I read until I was twelve and are the ones I still enjoy the most today as a young man. Shel Silverstein is known to most as the critically acclaimed childrens poet, and before this project, I was unaware of the other things he had done. Shel Silverstein also did cartoons, served for his country during the Korean War, wrote folk songs, played the guitar, and probably most shocking to me, were his poems and drawings for Playboy Magazine which depicted fairly gruesome sexual acts as well as drug use, especially his own. Life experience seems to be the influence for his NC-17 rated material but I was curious to who influenced his witty, lyrical childrens pieces. When studying Silversteins poetry, you can see how the nonsense subjects and rhymes look similar to Edward Lears nonsense poetry of one hundred and fifty years earlier and how the poetry of Ogden Nash, which Silverstein might have possibly read as a child, had influences on Shels own pieces.
However, the conclusion I have reached is purely hypothetical. Shel Silverstein once said he had no influences on his poetic style. In a 1975 interview with Jean Merciar, published in the February 24, 1975 issue of Publishers Weekly, Silverstein said, When I was kid- 12, 14, around there- I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldnt play ball, I couldnt dance. Luckily the girls didnt want me; not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write. I was also lucky that I didnt have anybody to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style, I was creating before I knew there was a Thurber, a Benchley, a Price and a Steinberg.
I never even saw their work till I was around thirty. By the time I got to where I was attracting girls, I was already into work, and it was more important to me. Not that I wouldnt rather make love, but the work has become a habit Even though Shel says nobody influenced his artistic abilities it is hard to believe that. Especially when you see how similar some of his pieces are to Edward Lears. One of the most captivating things about Silversteins poetry is that a sketch that he himself drew accompanies each one. They are usually funny, humorous sketches that add a visual interpretation to the poem.
I thought that only Silverstein used such a technique but Edward Lear used the same idea during the 1850s. Besides similar artistic abilities they also made silly, goofy poems. Heres an example from Edward Lear: There was a Young Lady whose chin, Resembled the point of a pin; So she had made it sharp, And purchased a harp, And played several tunes with her chin. Along with that piece, there is a comical drawing of exactly what the poem says, a lady with a pointy chin playing a harp. There is a poem in Falling Up, by Shel Silverstein that uses the same techniques: Scale If only I could see the scale, Im sure that it would state That Ive lost ouncesmaybe pounds Or even tons of weight.
Youd better eat some pancakes- Youre as skinny as a rail. Im sure thats what the scale would say If I could see the scale. (Silverstein, p. 12) Of course there is a sketch of a fat man standing on a scale he cannot see, done by Shel himself. Besides being humorous pieces, there are other similarities you can derive. Both poets use the same phrase they used to start and to finish their respective poems. However, Edward Lear never took his poetry as far as Silverstein.
Most of Lears poems are five lines long and all have a rhyme scheme of AABBA and they all repeat some form the first line for the ending. Basically, Silverstein progressed on Lears ideas and form, as did Ogden Nash. Ogden Nash was a childrens poet whose works were being published during Silversteins childhood. Even though he says he never read them, you cant help but notice similarities once again. Nash was a master of light and whimsical verses, a trait Silverstein had as well.
Nashs subject matter wasnt quite as juvenile and his poems occasionally use large vocabulary words like posterior. Nash is probably best known for his four-line poem titled Reflections on Icebreaking. Candy Is Dandy But liquor Is quicker Ogden had many pieces that would later resemble Silversteins, like The Cow. The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other milk. This poem is so incredibly simple it is almost mind-boggling.
Silverstein was a master of getting a point across with as little words as necessary just like Ogdens piece. STONE AIRPLANE I made an airplane out of stone I always did like staying home. Very simple, yet it is an enough to make the reader understand the point. Another poem by Ogden Nash that has a lot in common with Silversteins work, is his poem called The Termite. It uses iambic pentameter with four measures per line and has a rhyme scheme of AABB. Some Primal Termite knocked on wood And tasted it, and found it good! And that is why your Cousin May Fell through the parlor floor today Shel Silverstein has at least two dozen poems that follow this pattern but the one I always liked is called Don the Dragons Birthday.
Here he comes across the lake. Hes comin for his birthday cake. Sing Happy Birthday, Dragon Don, And watch him blow his candleson. Silverstein also uses iambic pentameter with four measures per line and follows the same rhyme scheme, AABB. Other similarities between Nash and Silverstein include their choices of topics.
Both have numerous poems about animals, especially the little appreciated (the termite) and the fictional (unicorns and dragons). Even though Silverstein says her never read Nash or Lear their respective styles of poetry seem to have been emulated by Silverstein in his work. Those are the main two influences on Silversteins poetry. Even though he says he never read them, their contributions to poetry paved the way for Shel Silverstein. Edward Lear and Ogden Nash made silly poetry with no hidden metaphors acceptable to the critics as well as mainstream America. They were, by far the two largest influences, even though maybe not directly, on Silversteins poetry. Because of these three men and Dr.
Seuss funny, silly, lyrical verses and poems are now accepted and even embraced by people all over the world. Bibliography 1. Friday, Sely. http://195.114233.19/Silverstein/bio.html. 2/29/2000. 2. http://www2.pair.com/mgraz/Lear/BoN/bon020.html. 3/5/2000. 3. Silverstein, Shel.
Falling Up, Scale. Harper Collins Publishers, New York City. P. 12 4. Nash, Megan. http://www.westegg.com/nash/ice-breaking.cgi 3/5/2000. 5. Nash. http://www.westegg.com/nash/cow.cgi 3/5/2000 6. Silverstein p 49.
7. Nash http://www.westegg.com/nash/cow.cgi 3/5/2000 8. Silverstein p.54.