Although you will have to come up with your own original five paragraphs on the role of creativity in Randall Jarrell’s little book The Bat-Poet, I will provide some guidance on how you may approach this assignment and do some great writing of your own. Think of creativity as, first of all, a natural inclination. Creative individuals have an inborn tendency to see beauty and meaning in their surroundings, to feel deeply, and to imagine vividly. The works that result from creativity are an outward manifestation of the way such people look at and reflect upon their lives and the world at large.
The Bat-Poet presents to the reader, in a fable-like form, an individual who is driven to create—the little brown bat who becomes the Bat-Poet. We are introduced to some of the innate qualities that predispose creativity. And as the tale unfolds, we learn why and how a creative process develops. We also come to understand the importance of supportive factors and the role that others can play in helping a creative individual realize his or her potential. Let us have a brief look at how these ideas are expressed in the story.
The Bat-Poet, like other animal fables, is not just meant to entertain young readers. There is a message in it for people of all ages. The little brown bat who is the protagonist of the tale stands out from the crowd—in his case, the colony of bats who live under the porch roof and later move to the barn at the end of the summer. His decision to remain under the porch roof and not join the others indicates early on in the story that the little bat values his own outlook and does not feel the need to be a follower. This factor allows him to devote his energies elsewhere: to introspection, to reflection, to his own inner voice.
Because he cannot snuggle up to other bats and get right back to sleep during daytime wakings, the little bat “would just hang there and think.” These extended waking times allow him to see all manner of beauty in the daytime world. The little bat reacts by becoming immersed in the sights and sounds of which he is newly aware. His creative self wakes up.
The little bat is so moved by what he sees and hears during the day that he enthusiastically invites the colony to share in his experience--to keep their eyes open just a little longer during their intermittent diurnal awakenings. But it is briefly uncomfortable at first for bats to open their eyes in daylight, and the others are not motivated to make the effort. They tell him, “We don’t know why. We just don’t want to.”
The little bat entreats his bat community to at least listen to the mockingbird, who sings at night when they are awake. Not only does this remarkable creature replicate the songs of other birds, but he also imitates the chatter or squirrels, the sound of milk bottles being placed on the ground, and the squeaking of the barn door. To the other bats, however, the song of the mockingbird sounds “terribly loud and deep” and is an irritation. The little bat explains that once they get used to the mockingbird’s voice, they will understand and enjoy it. But again, the other bats are not interested.
Motivated by the desire to share the wonder of the mockingbird’s song with others incapable of hearing it as he does, the little bat sets to words the emotions and images that the song evokes for him. The Bat-Poet is born.
Creative output is, importantly, the result of a desire to record and share a moving experience. The author cleverly captures this stage of creativity in the little bat’s first effort to compose a poem. Although the bat colony cannot understand the poem (“When you say things like that, we don’t know what you mean”), the Bat-Poet is not discouraged. He “keeps on making poems,” invigorated by the interest of the mockingbird and the enthusiasm of the chipmunk who exclaims, “Say it again!”