Ah, Shel Silverstein.
Even if you were a bit of a snarky kid, who didn’t have a bit of a soft spot for the silly poet who was also capable of more grown up bits like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue?” Silverstein’s works A Light in the Attic and Where The Sidewalk Ends delighted children and adults alike with their simplistic line drawings and a silly but often irreverent and even edgy tone.
More than a decade after his 1999 death of a heart attack, Silverstein has another tome of poetry coming out this month, a book called Every Thing On It. In the style of Falling Up and his other collections of poems, the work includes much of Silverstein’s unpublished work, not unlike 2005’s Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Of the latter, the artist’s literary executive and nephew Mitch Myers said:
“I think he wasn’t sure about how it would be received… It is and was very different. And it’s not easy, even for adults to read. I think, actually, younger children have a better time at it because they’re not so preconceived in their notions of how words work. And the playfulness of it really comes across.”
While the book will likely be received as mostly a delight by Silverstein fans, The Atlantic points out that many could be saddened by some of the works newly released:
…Every Thing On It ends with something of a gut-punch: “When I am gone what will you do?/Who will write and draw for you?” From the vantage point of a living, breathing artist, it’s a fair question, one that evokes posterity, legacy, and control. From the vantage point of posthumous publication, it’s wistful elegy and promise bound in one: The poem ultimately posits that someone “smarter” or “better” may come along—the reader, perhaps?—but who could possibly accomplish as much, and with such sublime skill and talent, as Shel Silverstein?
Shel Silverstein’s Every Thing On It is out today, and available from most major booksellers.