Thursday, December 8, 2011

Batty Poets

“Once upon a time there was a bat—a little light brown bat, the color of coffee with cream in it.” So begins The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell with Maurice Sendak’s terrifc illustrations.

I’ve been reading Jerome Griswold’s The Children’s Books of Randall Jarrell. It’s fascinating literary analysis. Jarrell sold the Bat Poet’s poems about the mockingbird and the chipmunk to the New Yorker. He didn’t tell them they were children’s poems! My favorite of the Bat Poet’s poems is about the owl.

A shadow is floating through the moonlight.
Its wings don’t make a sound.
Its claws are long, its beak is bright.
Its eyes try all the corners of the night.

The entire poem is included in a critical analysis of The Bat Poet printed in the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. Scroll down to p. 21.

When the Bat Poet says this poem to the mockingbird, he only notices the technical aspects of the poem. But the Chipmunk experiences the poem and shivers. It’s interesting that Jarrell’s wife has said that the vain Mockingbird is a caricature of Robert Frost and Robert Lowell.

Head on over to Read, Write, Howl for more wonderful batty poets.


  1. What a happy discovery! I did not know that Randall Jarrell wrote such poems.

    Thank you, Joyce.

  2. I didn't know of this Randall Jarrell book, either (and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, no less), and will have to track down a copy. Thanks for sharing this and the link! Much to enjoy on many levels.

  3. Our library has a copy at my school & I have used it often during certain nature studies. It's beautiful, isn't it? I love the words "and the night holds its breath". Can't you just imagine those little animals, so frightened & still?

  4. I've read one of Jarrell's bat poems but had no idea there was a whole book. I love the one I read. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I know you'll enjoy The Bat Poet. And we're not really batty, are we?


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