Poetry News

We'll take Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

By Harriet Staff

We can't be the only ones who started out in poetry with Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, or A Light in the Attic under our arms. Sigh. Those were the days! And now they're back! Sadly, Silverstein himself died in 1999 at age 68, but a new book, entitled Every Thing On It, has just been released by his family. According to NPR, which has just done a story on the book (you can also listen to it on the Morning Edition here), it is "[a] collection of 145 poems and drawings about hot dogs, birthday parties, Italian food and other subjects dear to the hearts of children, culled from 1,500 previously unpublished works."

They go on:

Silverstein eliminated many of [the poems] from his earlier books, not because he didn't like them, but because they just didn't happen to fit in the perfect order he was looking for in a given collection. Toni Markiet, editor of the new collection, worked on other projects alongside Silverstein. Markiet says the poet paid close attention to every last detail.

"He would move a piece of art over an 18th of an inch ... and look at how it looked on a page," she tells NPR's David Greene. " ... It's a slight adjustment, but to him, it mattered. I think one of the reasons his books are still so immensely popular after almost 50 years is that every tiny detail was considered."

To stay true to Silverstein's aesthetic, Markiet worked closely with the poet's family and used previous books as a template for the balance and pacing of the poetry and illustrations. The right-hand side of every page had to entice young readers to turn to the next page. The poetry needed to be arranged carefully to create a mix of funny, poignant and naughty.

"I think he liked to mix it up," Markiet says, "so that a child or any reader would never be bored. You could let it open at any page and you would be entertained."

"Every Thing On It" was chosen as the book's titular poem in part because of the lively art that accompanied it. A boy — who has asked for a hot dog with "everything on it" — holds a bun piled sky high with a basketball hoop, a snake, a hat, an umbrella, you name it.

"If you look at [Silverstein's] other books, the title was part of the artwork," Markiet explains. "To him, typography and layout was part of the whole. The art is wonderful. I mean, you look at it and you wonder: What is he doing with all that stuff on a hot dog? It makes you want to turn [the page.]"

We are so! Excited! Read the full story here.

Originally Published: September 21st, 2011