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Shel Silverstein Biography

The biography of Shel Silverstein. This page has biographical information on Shel Silverstein, one of the best poets of all time. This PoetrySoup page also provides access to the poet's poems, best poetry, quotes, and video biographies...if available.

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Shel Silverstein Biography | Poems (19)
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An American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, screenwriter, and author of children's books.. American poet singer-songwriter musician composer cartoonist screenwriter and author of children's literature


Sheldon Alan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children's books. He was also known as "Uncle Shelby." Silverstein claimed he never studied the poetry of others, and therefore developed his own style. His style was laid-back and conversational, occasionally employing profanity and recent slang. He wrote with an unaffected, un-self-conscious manner that kept attention focused on the subject matter, not the language. Silverstein believed that written works needed to be read on paper, and with the correct paper for the work. He usually would not allow his poems or stories to be published unless he could choose the type, size, shape, and color of the paper himself. Being himself a book collector, he took the feel and look - the paper, the type, the binding - of his titles very seriously. He did not allow his books to be published in paperback, but this doesn't seem to have affected his popularity: his books sold at least 14 million copies.

His Life

Shel had two children. With Susan Hastings he had daughter Shoshanna (Shanna), born June 30, 1970. Susan died just 5 years later on June 29, 1975, in Baltimore, Maryland. Shoshanna's aunt and uncle, Curtis and Meg Marshall, raised Shanna from the age of five until her own death of a cerebral aneurysm in Baltimore on April 24, 1982 at the age of eleven. Shanna was attending the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore at the time of her death. Shel dedicated his 1983 reprint of Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros to the Marshalls. "It was the single most devastating event of his life, and he never really did recover from it", says a close friend. Had Shanna lived, she would have been 29 at the time of Shel's death. A Light in the Attic was dedicated "to Shanna," and Shel had drawn the sign with a flower attached. Shoshanna means "rose" in Hebrew.

Shel's other child is son Matthew, born in 1984. Matthew's mother is Sarah. Shel's 1996 Falling Up was dedicated to Matt.


Shel Silverstein died on May 10, 1999 in Key West, Florida of a heart attack.

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