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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"

On possibility

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the Shouldn'ts
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
then listen close to me —
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
“Listen to the Mustn'ts” from "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

On recognizing your uniqueness

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

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"

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"

On independence

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

On tackling the impossible

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

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"

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"

Photo credit: Gems/ Contributor/ Getty Images

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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.
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