Tag Archives: Shel Silverstein

My New Poetry Project

My New Poetry Project

Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite poets. I love his collections for children, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. I love his quirky illustrations.

One of the most dangerous things a writer can do is read someone else’s work and think, I could do that.

And yet, that’s just what I want to do—write a collection of poems for children and illustrate it with line drawings.

Map lying on wooden table

I’ve brainstormed some ideas and I’m adding to my list of topics every week. I have a few poems ready to go. I think 100 poems should be just about right. I could put that together in the next couple of years, even if I only write one a week.

The illustrations will be trickier. I am not an illustrator. My strategy will be to copy some of my favorite illustrator’s works, Silverstein’s included, until I gain some confidence and skill; then, create my own characters and doodle some illustrations to complement the poems. Next month is Inktober, and I think I might use the challenge to work on my illustrations.pony-2595144_640

Here are some of the poems I’ve written so far:

If I Had a Pony

I could ride him and feed him carrots
I could brush him
I could name him Geronimo
he could take me on adventures to lands far away
he could run like the wind and I would feel like I was flying
he could save me from danger
I could lead him to water
we could ride all day and sleep under the stars
I could be the hero on a pony like that


Serves Him Right

sci-fi-3144558_640I hope the kid who ripped up
my Student of the Week certificate
gets captured by bloodthirsty aliens
from the planet Beelzebub
who beam him up to their spaceship
and tie him up and look at him
through a giant microscope
and paralyze him with their ray guns
and poke him with needles
and then almost give him a certificate for Best Earth Specimen
but then take it back and rip it up
and eject him from the spaceship
too late for dinner and dessert
and nobody believes him
it would serve him right


I Want to be a Ballerina when I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to twirl;
I think I’ll give ballet a whirl.
To dance on tiptoes is my goal—
It makes me happy in my soul.

To wear ballet shoes on my feet,
To wear a tutu on my seat,
To wear my hair up in a bun
And pirouette until I’m spun.

Not a teacher or a nurse,
Not a president—or worse,
Not a scooper of ice cream—
A ballerina is my dream.

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

One of my favorite poet/illustrators is Shel Silverstein (1930-1999). I find his rhymes and accompanying drawings delightful. They were enjoyed by my husband’s elementary school students and by our five kids, and adults and children alike.

Not only did he write poems and draw illustrations and cartoons, he also composed songs and wrote plays.

Preparing to write this article, I could only find two volumes of his in my well-organized (—not!) library: The Giving Tree and A Light in the Attic. I’m sure we had more; who knows where they went.


From A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.

The Giving Tree is a picture book. It tells the story of a tree who loves a boy and over the years gives herself to him completely. I interpret it as a metaphor for mothering.

A Light in the Attic is a collection of poetry. I’m sure we also had Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.  As someone who writes poetry and most often defaults to free verse, I am impressed by the quality of Silverstein’s rhymes. Sometimes he takes liberties (like rhyming water with oughtter), but the rhymes never feel forced or contrived.


From A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.

Silverstein’s whimsical illustrations remind me a bit of Dr. Suess, in that they are in turns amusing and a little nightmarish.

I remember three of his songs in particular, though I forgot (if I ever even knew) that he wrote them. “A Boy Named Sue” earned him a Grammy.

That one and this one, “The Unicorn,” got way too much airtime during my high school years. (Enough to almost make me think unicorns are dorky. Almost, but not quite.)

One song I love and that I sang with my kindergarten students when I taught music:

His work remains popular today. The Shel Silverstein website has resources for teachers to inspire their student poets, writers, and artists.