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“How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes” & “Dreadful,” by Shel Silverstein

September 29, 2010

These two dropped the dishes on the floor and (burp) ate the baby.

Back in the 1980’s, my classmates and I were memorizing poems like “Sick” and “Messy Room” for our small, Christian school’s Creative Expression Night, very likely at the same time that parents elsewhere were challenging the presence of Mr. Silverstein’s poems in their kids’ schools and libraries.  His poems, they said, suggest “drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, rebellion against parents.”  (And cannibalism.  They forgot cannibalism.)

If there was a font for ridiculous I’d have used it for that quote. I mean, I’m going home this afternoon to read these poems to my kids.  Lots of laughs.  Good times.  I didn’t do that with “Howl” yesterday.

Except.  Except that eating the baby is more horrifying and despicable than anything Ginsberg recounted.  Yes, I’m banning “Howl” at home for the next few years, and not “Dreadful,” ever.  What’s the difference?  I’ve got lots of ideas, but first: What do you think?

These two poems are from Shel Silverstein’s books A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends (Harper Collins).  The quote about “drug use, the occult, suicide, etc.” is from a number of stories like this one. These aren’t primary sources, so they might just be internet scuttlebutt.  But I doubt it, and so do you.

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