Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

About Shel Silverstein

Sheldon Allan 'Shel' Silverstein (September 25, 1930 - May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, illustrator, playwright, lyricist and writer. He used to sign some of his satirical and adult books with the pen name Uncle Shelby. He is best known for his poetry and his children's books, which he himself illustrated, - most notably, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (1981), A Light in the Attic (1981), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) and The Giving Tree (1964) which tells the story of friendship and love between a tree and a child, to whom it gives its fruit. His poems have been translated into more than 40 languages and his books have sold more than twenty million copies. He also composed the lyrics and music for many songs, performed either by himself or by singers like Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull or Jerry Lee Lewis. Very good storyteller and singer, he also performed many of his poems for children for which he was the recipient of two Grammy Awards for A Boy Named Sue in 1970 which was performed by Johnny Cash and Where The Sidewalk Ends in 1985 produced by Ron Haffkine, as well as nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and Academy Awards for his song I'm Checkin' Out in the film Postcards from the Edge, which was included posthumously into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. A Boy Named Sue was also inducted in the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014, after his death in 1999. He masterfully alternated the activity of musician and composer with that of writer and poet, not disdaining the use of cartoons to illustrate his ideas.
Silverstein published his first stories in the student newspaper Roosevelt Torch, then, after enlisting in the military, in the newspaper Pacific and Stripes while serving in the Korean army in the 1950s. He published his first collection of comics, Take Ten in 1955. His work caught the attention of Playboy, where he collaborated for six years, and gained international notoriety with the cartoon depicting a prisoner chained to the wall by the feet and wrists saying to another chained: 'Pssst! I have a plan!'. In 1960, he debuted with the novel Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, which aroused the curiosity of a children's book editor. In 1963, at the suggestion of his colleague Tomi Ungerer, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom, who convinced him to start writing short stories for children. It was The The Giving Tree (1964), one of his most popular books, that consecrated him. Since then, he has not stopped writing. In 1974 he wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends, which won a New York Times Award in 1974. Next comes The Missing Piece. In 1981 he released a collection of poems and drawings entitled A Light in the Attic, which won several awards. One of his last editorial works is Falling Up: Poems and Drawings (1996), praised by critics. He also ventured to write some theater screenplays for plays such as The Lady or the Tiger Show, a one-act play performed in New York in 1981. It is a satire aimed at game shows: the competitors risk life choosing between two doors, behind which there is a beautiful woman or a tiger; and film scripts, the most famous being Things Change (1988), co-authored with David Mamet, and the drama The Devil and Billy Markham, which was combined with the comedy Bobby Gould in Hell under the collective title Oh, Hell! Two One-Act Plays, produced in 1989.
Sheldon Allan Silverstein said that he had never studied poetry and therefore developed his own style, relaxed and narrative-colloquial, often using obscene expressions and elements of colloquial speech. In addition, Shel Silverstein wrote slang poetry and even rewrote Hamlet in a rap style.
Silverstein died at his home in Key West, Florida, of a heart attack on May 10, 1999, at the age of 68.

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And he didn’t really know where he was going, but he did know he was going somewhere, because you really have to go somewhere, don’t you?

Shel Silverstein Poems

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