By: Lisa Breininger
Kick off poetry month with some poets; learn about how they started, struggles they encountered, how they became poets, and much more. Shel Silverstein is the first poet we will kick off with, here at the Rohrbach Library.
Eric A. Kimmel, in Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers, characterized Silverstein this way: “His poems read like those a fourth grader would write in the back of his notebook when the teacher’s eye was turned.” Kimmel goes on to say: “that may be precisely their appeal.” Gale Biography in Context
[NOTE: Due to our licensing agreement, access to Gale Biography in Context is restricted to the students, staff, and faculty at Kutztown University.]
Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 25, 1930. He passed away on May 10, 1999 in Florida. Silverstein was a teenager when he started to write and draw.
“I was also lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.” – Silverstein (Gale Bio)
In 1950 he served with the armed forces, and during the time he spent in Japan and Korea, he drew cartoons. These cartoons were drawn at the Pacific Star and Stripes.
When 1952 rolled in, Silverstein started his career at Playboy magazine, writing and drawing cartoons. He was convinced to write for children when he met Ursula Nordstrom, an editor at Harper and Brothers.
When Silverstein wrote children’s poetry books he drew black and white cartoons to go with the poems. Having drawings to accompany the poems was necessary for the understanding of the poem itself. His books seem to be everywhere, the library shelves, teachers’ classrooms, and at home on children’s bookshelves. His books even are used in elementary schools to teach children poetry.
Many people have different options on what they think about the books Silverstein created. Some believe that these are educational readings while other people believe that these poems are harmful to children.
Here in the Rohrbach Library, we have some of Shel Silverstein books. These include: The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, The Missing Piece, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, A Giraffe and a half, Runny Babbit, and Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?
The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends were published in 1964. The Giving Tree became one of his most successful children’s books, which placed him on the best-seller list. When he sent in the story in the first time, the publisher rejected the piece. They believed the book would not sell because it fell between children’s and adult literature. As the story progresses the boy grows up and uses the tree until it is only a stump in the ground and he becomes a bitter man.
“a relationship between two people: one gives and the other takes” – Silverstein (Gale Bio)
Many people consider Where the Sidewalk Ends a classic piece. Some people think that his work makes children feel as though an adult understands them.
“convincing millions of children that poetry is neither difficult nor threatening” – Kimmel (Gale Bio) (Believes this is Silverstein’s greatest contribution)
Photograph by Gale Biography in Context
To find out more about Shel Silverstein please visit the Rohrbach Library for books that Silverstein has written.
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1874.
In 1912, when he was almost forty years old, Frost only had a few poems published. He lived on a farm with his family until the day he sold the farm and used the annuity that his grandfather gave him to move to England and gamble everything he had on poetry. His family then settled on a farm in Buckinghamshire, and Frost began to write.
Publishers in England were willing to give new poets a chance. That is when Frost decided that England would be a good place to start. His time spent in England was short lived when WW1 broke out in 1914. During Frost’s life, England had become a significant part of his life.
Some of the poems Frost has written include: After Apple Picking, The Road Not Taken, A Lake Walk, A Patch of Old Snow, A Soldier, Acquainted with the Night, The Secret Sits, The Span of Life, Meeting and Passing, Stars, The Flower Boat, Tree at My Window, The Woodpile, Fire and Ice, Fireflies in the Garden, and Ghost House. But there are many more.
In 1917, Frost started to teach at Amherst. He received his master of arts in 1918, and finished teaching in 1920. When the year 1936 rolled in, Frost was ordered to move south because of his weak lungs. From that time forward, he spent the winter months in Florida. In 1938 his wife passed away from a heart attack. Two years after his wife’s death, his son committed suicide.
In 1930 Robert Frost published his Collected Poems, in 1939 his second Collected Poems appeared, and in 1949 his final Complete Poems appeared. Robert Frost was the first poet to recite one of his poems at a presidential inauguration, that of John f. Kennedy in 1961. He recited “The Gift Outright.” Frost died in 1963 in Boston after complications that followed an operation he had.
Photograph by Gale Biography in Context
To find out more about Robert Frost please visit the Rohrbach Library for books about him. As always, if you need assistance locating materials, ask a librarian at the Research Help Desk.
Shel Silverstein and Robert Frost both lived interesting lives that can further be researched. Because it is poetry month I decided to give you the poetry aspect of their lives.