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Compare contrast poems: where the sidewalk ends and there is another sky

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Kadlec, Gavin
Mme Blais
EAE3U
12 May 2014
Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Emily Dickinson’s There Is Another Sky:
Compare and contrast
A commonly asked question concerning poetry is asked many a time. Do poems have any relevance in today’s society? The French poet Paul Valery said during his prime that poems are “the unique intersection of language and state of mind." It is shown in everyday life through communication between people, expressing oneself, music as well as basic marketing. Poetry has evolved to show different sides of every coin yet also remains quite similar in modern times. Emily Dickinson’s ‘’There is Another Sky’’ and Shel Silverstein’s ‘’ Where the Sidewalk Ends’’ highlight the similarities between poems today in terms of theme, content/imagery and technique as well as the subtle and vast differences concerning the topic surrounding death.
The theme of Shel Silverstein’s poem is the end. He speaks of the end of the sidewalk and of his journey towards it. The author speak of his different views on the good and the bad of this sidewalk. The side walk is a representation concerning the theme of life. The sidewalk is the path that everyone must take yet also will always end hence, the journey of life. The sidewalk was an interesting metaphor because unlike a hall or a road, there is a defined route. A road is a guide but one can always stray from the correct path and a hall is more of an open space. The author was very precise in his reason for choosing a sidewalk. A sidewalk is more of a way to keep people off the streets and not get hit by cars as well as there are some places a sidewalk does not go. One could even say that consciously or subconsciously, Silverstein, the author chose the sidewalk because people are just meant to be kept out of the way to make room for things more important and because they do not take us everywhere. The sidewalk must end and that’s why the reader could think Silverstein chose this as a theme.
The theme of Emily Dickinson’s poem is differing from that of Silverstein yet keeps many of the same crucial elements. In ‘’There is Another Sky’’, Dickinson uses an interesting approach to describing heaven as well as its existence. Instead of using a metaphor or a simile, she uses a rather direct approach with an implied vagueness. The author writes of another sky, one different than our own meaning another place where people live. The poems are similar concerning the topic of death yet differ as in the moments leading up to and after death.
The content of each poem is in its own accord, rich. In Shel Silverstein’s ‘’ Where the Sidewalk Ends’’, each aspect of the ‘’sidewalk’’ is described. Because this is a relatable element in everyday life, readers can begin to view themselves walking on the metaphorical sidewalk and seeing things described by Silverstein as well as their meaning for example, ‘’there the grass grows…’’ and ‘’there the bird rests…’’ (Silverstein). Near the end of the first stanza, the author writes of how the wind is cold as it arrives and there is the change in imagery from good to bad. He then begins describing the darker parts of ‘’life’’. He says ‘’the smoke blows black’’ and ‘’…the dark streets winds and bends’’ (Silverstein). A very important part of this poem and its imagery however is how after Silverstein shows the negative parts of the ‘’sidewalk’’, he shows through his strong words that perseverance can make the bleak things seem meek. ‘’… where the asphalt flowers grow’’ (Silverstein) is a good example to demonstrate the positive side of this poem.
Dissimilar from Silverstein, Emily Dickinson uses the content as well as imagery to show more so the side of how great the afterlife is. She makes a reference to earth and contrasts it to her ‘’other sky’’ (heaven). She begins using her forceful content to describe the serenity of this new area and writes ‘’Though it be darkness there’’. The word ‘’there’’ of that verse is meaning the earth even though she makes no reference of the word itself. The reader can only comprehend the implication through the use of Dickinson’s words pertaining to nature such as ‘’…faded forests’’ and ‘’…silent fields”. Later in the stanza, the content changes it’s nature to something more appealing, something in accord with the other sky. The author continues to use her strong imagery to describe her magical world. She uses words to describe senses such as sound and colour as well as temperature; “Here is a brighter garden, Where not a frost…” as well as “I hear the bright bee hum”. Also, to further demonstrate the reference to heaven, near the end of the play the reader sees “Prithee, my brother, Into my garden come!” they can analyse nearly every word as a reference to God in some way. Prithee is an older word that comes from the saying “pray the”, “my brother” is a reference to god in the way that we are all his children and finally, “Into my garden” is a clear reference to the garden of Eden or even to a perfect place such as heaven.
A technique is something that every poet and author must have be it formal or common, joyful or twisted and to use this technique subtly is a difficult task to accomplish. In Shel Silverstein’s ‘’ Where the Sidewalk Ends’’, he uses his technique with efficiency and his technique can be analyzed as subtext. His theme is the end and the journey towards it and the reader can quickly discern this information for the title alone or even from the piece itself. What the reader does not usually pick up on is the sounds of homophones. “End” sounds much like ‘’and” so many people will make the comparison subconsciously but will not know themselves that this is what they see. Also another example of subtext in the poem is a rhetorical question he doesn’t ask. Silverstein writes of different places on his sidewalk of life but when introducing these places he uses the word where. This can be seen as ‘’where?” since the word alone is a question. This is a great use of his subliminal talents for example, he writes many different forms of movement representing time passing such as “We shall walk” and “To the place” then he follows with the common word interpreted question “Where”. The author questions the reason for the journey of life and to couple that with the theme, the end of the sidewalk is where you stop walking and there is no more walking from that point.
In contrast to that point, Emily Dickinson’s “There is Another sky” is the opposite. Almost as an answer to Shel Silverstein’s “where” subtext, Dickinson responds “There is…” in her title. Although this might be quite direct, Emily Dickinson also has her own technique. Her technique is not subtext as reinforcement although it is present but rather her directness. She directly states that her sky is brighter and not faded whereas “there” is silent and absent of life. Dickinson also uses frequently words with different meanings to state the same thing or relate to the same idea. She uses “here” as well as “where” which might seem different but are used well in context. To address the earlier mentioned presence of subtext is an example of the words beginning verses; “Ever…”, “And…” and “Never…”. These words can be interpreted as this sky will always exist as well as it will never exist at the same time. Emily Dickinson’s theme is clearly heaven in all its glory as well as the afterlife yet the subtext can underline the fact that she might have wavered in her convictions while writing this. Although Emily Dickinson’s techniques might vary, she makes full use of them and proof of that is her recognition as a poet. She uses differing techniques but also finds an intelligent way to relate them to the readers. Through the use of the word “my” repeated in the poem, the reader reads the words personally and links them to their own personal experience.
All in all, technique, imagery and theme were well used by both Shel Silverstein in his “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and Emily Dickinson in her “There is Another Sky”. Theme was similar between authors surrounding the topic of death yet showed different views on it. Imagery was well used surrounding the theme of death but both authors used positive as well as negative descriptions. Finally, technique was different on the side of subtext versus directness although Dickinson used a larger variety of techniques not completely throwing subtext “out the window”. Both author’s poems were quite relevant in discerning the differences and similarities in poems from different time periods. And as support to that is the relevance of poems in today or any day’s society. According to the French poet Paul Valery said during his prime that poems are “the unique intersection of language and state of mind."

Works Cited
Valery, Paul. "Famous Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 5 May 2014.
Dickinson, Emily. "There Is Another Sky." Poemhunter.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2014.
Silverstein, Sheldon. "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Where the Sidewalk Ends. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.

Cited: Valery, Paul. "Famous Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. Dickinson, Emily. "There Is Another Sky." Poemhunter.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2014. Silverstein, Sheldon. "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Where the Sidewalk Ends. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.

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