Article image

9 Quotes From the Delightful Poems of Shel Silverstein

A lifelong creative who dabbled in cartooning, songwriting, and performing, Shel Silverstein is best known for his whimsical poetry for children. His writing strikes a clever balance between mischief and sincerity, often using bizarre characters as cautionary tales.

In one of Silverstein’s most well-known poems, a girl named Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout refuses to take out the trash, and eventually meets “an awful fate” in the garbage she neglected. But many of his poems aren’t ominous at all, and instead turn real life on its head in delightful ways.

In beloved books such as Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic, Silverstein often returned to themes of dreaming big, taking life one day at a time, and the importance of being yourself — things you don’t need to be a young reader to appreciate.

Here, we’ve assembled some of his most heartening quotes — some playful, some serious — for when you’re in need of some reflection, encouragement, or just looking to kick off your day with a smile.

On taking risks

All the magic I have known / I’ve had to make myself.
“Magic” from "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

Share Quote

On possibility

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child / Listen to the DON’TS / Listen to the Shouldn'ts / The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S / Listen to the NEVER HAVESthen listen close to me — / Anything can happen, child, / ANYTHING can be.
“Listen to the Mustn'ts” from "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

Share Quote

On recognizing your uniqueness

All the colors I am inside / Have not been invented yet.
“Colors” from "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

Share Quote

On savoring the moment

There are no happy endings. / Endings are the saddest part, / So just give me a happy middle / And a very happy start.
"Every Thing On It"

Share Quote

On trusting your intuition

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend / Or wise man can decide / What's right for you — just listen to / The voice that speaks inside.
“The Voice” from "Falling Up"

Share Quote

On independence

I can be somebody's and still be my own.
"The Missing Piece"

Share Quote

On tackling the impossible

Just 'cause somethin' ain't been done / Don't mean it can't be did.
"Every Thing On It"

Share Quote

On letting loose

Draw a crazy picture, / Write a nutty poem, / Sing a mumble-gumble song, / Whistle through your comb. / Do a loony-goony dance / Cross the kitchen floor, / Put something silly in the world / That ain't been there before.
“Put Something In" from "A Light in the Attic"

Share Quote

On getting what you give

How much good inside a day? / Depends how good you live ‘em. / How much love inside a friend? / Depends how much you give ‘em.
“How Many, How Much" from "A Light in the Attic"

Share Quote

Featured image credit: Gems/ Contributor/ Getty Images

Author image
About the Author
Paola Bennet
Paola Bennet is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a fortnightly newsletter that treasures the mundane, called Small Histories. Find her on Instagram @paolafbennet.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
What playwright said, “Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand"?

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

separator icon
Henry Miller
motivation theme icon

One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.

separator icon
Gertrude Stein
hope theme icon

The truth is the light and light is the truth.

separator icon
Ralph Ellison
love theme icon

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.

separator icon
Bessie Anderson Stanley
wisdom theme icon

Be happy, take care of your teeth, always let your conscience be your guide.

separator icon
Patti Smith
happiness theme icon

When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.

separator icon
B.F. Skinner
motivation theme icon

My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it.

separator icon
Judy Blume
hope theme icon

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

separator icon
Louis Pasteur
love theme icon

'Tis never too late to be wise.

separator icon
Daniel Defoe
wisdom theme icon

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

separator icon
Seneca
happiness theme icon

Words empowered by justice can never be silenced.

separator icon
Isabel Ibañez