Poetry Friday: The 2014 CYBILS & Shel Silverstein

Cybils-Logo-2014I’m not sharing an original poem of mine today, because I’m letting a master of wit and humour take the spotlight in honour of the anniversary of his birth. More on that in just a few…

Before I do anything, I need to express my heartfelt gratitude to the folks at the CYBILS Awards for selecting me as a 2nd-round judge for the poetry competition once again. My first year participating in the CYBILS was last year, and it was so much fun (albeit a lot of work), I hoped I would be able to take part a second time…and I am!

The 1st-round judges will review all the books that have been submitted and whittle the list of nominees down to 6 or 7; the 2nd-round judges will then debate the merits of each of these 6 or 7 books to determine the winner. One day in the future, I will not be allowed to be a judge because one of my books will be short-listed. (That’s the plan, anyway) Until then, I’m happy to peruse the books that are up for the award.

To nominate a book – for any category – just log onto the CYBILS webpage between Oct. 1 – 15! Winners will be announced early next year. For now, here’s a list of my fellow poetry judges. Their names are followed by the name of their blogs and their Twitter handles:

First Round:
Kelly Fineman
Writing and Rumination
Nancy Bo Flood
The Pirate Tree
Jone Rush MacCulloch
Check It Out
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
The Miss Rumphius Effect
Sylvia Vardell
Poetry For Children
Round Two:
Linda Baie
Teacher Dance
Renee La Tulippe
No Water River
Laura Shovan
Author Amok
Matt Forrest Esenwine
Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
For a list of all the judges of all the categories, click HERE!
Click to read more of Silverstein’s poetry.

Now, then…it’s time I wished the late, great Shel Silverstein a Happy Birthday! Born on September 25, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois, “Uncle Shelby” would have been 84 years old this week.

Of course, he is remembered by most folks for his classic children’s books like Where the Sidewalk Ends (celebrating its 40th birthday this year), A Light in the Attic, and The Giving Tree (which celebrates its 50th birthday this year). He is also remembered as a cartoonist for “Playboy” magazine. But many folks do NOT know:
  • Shel was a fan of country music and wrote numerous hit songs, including Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue,” Loretta Lynn’s “One’s on the Way” and “Hey Loretta,” Bobby Bare’s “Pour Me Another Tequila, Sheila,” Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” and the Irish Rovers’ classic, “The Unicorn.”
  • In the 1950s, he was stationed in the Army overseas, which is where he first started developing his knack for cartooning.
  • He was a playwright and collaborated with the great David Mamet on more than one occasion.
  • He decided to shave his head bald when he began feeling self-conscious about losing his hair.
  • He was a compulsive writer, and would often jot ideas or sketches down on whatever was available, including his clothes or skin!

I see lists of the best, greatest, most memorable Silverstein poems all the time, but my favourite is often not on those lists for some reason. It’s “The Little Boy and the Old Man,” a short but touching poem, and you can read  it HERE.

So Happy Birthday, Uncle Shelby! For more Poetry Friday fun and links, please visit our friend, Laura Purdie Salas’s blog, Writing the World for Kids, and I’ll close this post with a rare performance – Shel Silverstein singing live on The Johnny Cash Show!

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22 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The 2014 CYBILS & Shel Silverstein

  1. margaretsmn

    I love Shel Silverstein. His website is great fun for kids. My students fall into his poetry books and laugh until it hurts.
    I am nervous about the Cybils judging. A big commitment. But I am excited to read so much poetry.


  2. Congrats on being selected to be a second round judge (I did that for 3 years and enjoyed it)!

    Happy Birthday, Uncle Shelby. Thanks for the video and link to that touching poem.


  3. Well, unbeknownst to either of us, we each picked ol’ Shel for our posts today Matt. Appreciations for sharing the commentary “The Little Boy and the Old Man,” which should be read by every nursing home/assisted living social worker, for sure. It’s lovely, in its poignancy & I didn’t know it.

    Plus, Bravo! on your Cybils judgeship – you all are in great company,
    with each other. Exciting.


  4. Can’t wait to see what books we’ll get to discuss, Matt! Thanks for this about Shel Silverstein. It is beautiful, perhaps not a children’s poem, right? I didn’t know he wrote those other songs-how wonderful is that! And thanks for the video, too. For me, and for my students, he has been a gift for a long time.


  5. Heidi

    Lucky lucky judges! Have fun, and I like your plan. : )
    Happy birthday to Shel and thanks for the facts–what an all-rounder!
    (Did you know that Johnny Appleseed would have turned 240 yesterday?)


  6. I remember discovering Silverstein late. In middle school, my best friend and I pored over “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and loved sharing our favorite poems with each other. Looking forward to judging CYBILS with you, Matt!


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