Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you are a dreamer...

...come in!

Shel Silverstein was a prolific jotter, and some of the jottings left out of his original books will appear in a new collection in fall 2011. If their "leftover" status means they're a bit less polished than his earlier published poems, I kind of don't care. If anyone could come up with something funny, beautiful, or both by letting his mind run free, it was Shel. (Take that as you will, but I speak here of his writing for children.)

And :sigh: I suppose it's time to have the Shel Silverstein talk.

Shel sometimes gets a bad rap for being the only poet a lot of kids know, and I suppose there's some validity there. Kids are capable of understanding and liking a wider variety of poetry. Letting them see that some poetry doesn't rhyme might make it seem more possible that they, too, can write it. And wonderful as Shel's work is, an isolated Light in the Attic doesn't shed much, well, light on how to appreciate adult poetry. No wonder a lot of adults feel lost around the poems intended for them.

But as far as I know, Shel never told anyone to expose children only to his work and work like it. And in isolation or not, it does so much good. When I read weekly to classes at a local elementary school, I closed each session with a poem, starting with Shel's work and then including that of other poets. Games of "guess the rhyme" kept them engaged, the content kept them giggling, and after a week or two, the announcement that a poem was next met with a fist-pumping "yes!"

I'll meet the new collection's release the same way.

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