The colony of bats are back. I hear them in the eaves near my chimney. During the day, the nocturnal critters hang silently by their legs, heads bent, covered by voluminous wings. But at dusk, there’s a lot of commotion as they head out to nab mosquitoes. (I just learned that the Latin name for the bat is vespertilio, which refers to when it flies – after twilight.) And in the early morning hours, when the bats return, there’s skadoodles of quarreling and bickering outside my window as they jostle for the prime resting spots.

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The Royal Air Force No IX Squadron adopted the bat in its badge in 1917 along with the Latin language motto “Per Noctem Volamus” (We Fly Through the Night).  In heraldry, when a bat is used in a coat of arms ( to mark an historic event ), it’s called a reremouse. Legend has it that a bat collided with a drum, waking up the Christians and warning them of an attack by the Arabian army in Mallorca. Another version says that, in the heat of battle, an arrow fired at the monarch hit a bat instead, saving the king’s life.



Randall Jarrell was a literary essayist and one of the most astute (and feared) poetry critics of his generation. But he also wrote books for children. Like this lovely and humorous tale ~ The Bat-Poet.



It’s the story of a bat who likes to make poems that, well, the other bats just don’t get. The little brown bat couldn’t sleep days so he kept waking up and looking at the world. Before long he began to see things differently from the other bats, who ~from dawn to sunset ~ never opened their eyes. The Bat-Poet is the story of how he tried to make the other bats see things his way. In the book are the bat’s own poems about his world: the owl who almost eats him; the mockingbird whose irritable genius almost overpowers him; the chipmunk who loves his poems, and the bats who can’t make heads or tails of them; and the cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and sparrows who fly in and out of this fable illustrated by Maurice Sendak.




By Randall Jarrell

A bat is born
Naked and blind and pale
His mother makes a pocket of her tail
And catches him. He clings
to her long fur
By his thumbs and toes and teeth.
And then the mother dances through the night
Doubling and looping,
Soaring, somersaulting-
Her baby hangs on
All night, in happiness,
She hunts and flies.
Her high sharp cries
Like shining needlepoints of sound
Go out into the night and
echoing back,
Tell her what they have touched.
She hears how far it is,
how big it is,
which way it’s going:
She lives by hearing.
The mother eats the moths and gnats
she catches
In full flight, In full flight.
The mother drinks the water of the pond,
She skims across,
Her baby hangs on tight.
Her baby drinks the milk she makes him.
In moonlight or starlight,
In midair
Their single shadow,
printed on the moon
Or fluttering across the stars,
Whirls on all night.
At daybreak,
the tired mother flaps home to her rafter
The others all are there.
They hang themselves up by their toes,
They wrap themselves in their brown wings.
Bunched upside down, they sleep in air.
Their sharp ears,
Their sharp teeth
Their quick sharp faces
Are dull and slow and mild.
All the bright day, as the mother sleeps,
She folds her wings about her sleeping child.


What’s Poetry Month without a Giveaway?

Here’s one that’s sure to please.  Fly fangs-first into Margaret Roach‘s blog ~ it’s brazenly good !

WIN ONE OF TWO hardcover copies of Emily Dickinson’s complete poems; giveaway closes Monday night.  Happy National Poetry Month!

Toni 4/24/11


The one precise word. The one evocative phrase. The one fresh sentence. The one punchy essay. It’s a challenge to craft a thumbs-up piece. Aren’t we all in that struggle? So WWWW made an impulsive buy and ordered Spunk and Bite.  Well, it’s one yowzer of a book!


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The author is Art Plotnik ~ he’s the guy with all the toys. And he shares. Forget the sacred cows of Composition 101. He gives Strunk and White their due, then goes straight for the funny bone. There are plenty of aha moments as the war of usage and rules plays out under his pen. There’s joy in this text and tons of edgy ideas. Art teaches us to loot a thesaurus, hunt down danglers and coin bonne locutions. Talk about nudges to write more electric prose.



Like all writers, we’re a curious bunch. So, The Conversation Begins. We write to Art; he writes back. Does he inspire us? Every day. Want to see why?


And check out his non-blog snog, it’s coruscatingly cool.


 The Conversation continues.

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From our favorite wizard of word wonkery, Arthur Plotnik, there’s something new and it’s Better Than Great.  It’s one bobby dazzler of a book. Plotnik fills the pages with almost 6,000 alternative terms for praise of every kind. We are cockahooped over this book. It’s even got gr8t texting superlatives. Billy Collins calls it Amen-Astonishing.

I can’t write without this one little book nearby. What do I love about it?

Um, everything. It’s sublime, joy-giving, and wicked cool. As Patty would say,  here’s a nugget I’m chewing on ~ Art says beautiful and gorgeous, our beloved go-to superlatives, are pretty worn out. He suggests that we aim to take that special beauty and put our personal spin on it. Hmm. The Power of One Updikeian Word. Think sensory qualities, art connections, the sacred and the profane. Art’s list includes some funky-fresh superlatives~




I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up gorgeous


pinch-me perfect

stretch-limo sleek

wallopingly attractive


At the end of the chapter on BEAUTIFUL, Art finishes with a Vintage Gold list that goes from bellafatima and easy on the eyes to an ohmigoddess and a slick article. This book is one hotsy totsy prize package!


Better Than Great: A Plentitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives. Find out more and get your Superlatives of the Week here.  This is what I think ~

Better than Great is

unspeakably majestic!

It’s nirvanic and

cheek by jowl with perfection.

It’s, well, Plotnikian.

In addition to all of this, Art Plotnik is also a Giga-Awesome Poet.


The Menu Poet

(Published in Harpur Palate, Vol. 7, Issue 1)

Her early work appeared at Ed’s Diner
(Akron), where she married the phrases
chicken-fried and cheese-stuffed
to the steak and omelette entries.

She knew that such savory items
as butternut squash, rack of lamb,
forest mushrooms, mousse and flan
could levitate menus on their own,

but Ed’s menu lay flat in its grease
until she imagined dishes animated
by action verbs—energetic participles
of preparation, some topped by nouns

as in her first inspired couplet,
Pit-roasted thigh of wild antelope
in sesame-thickened mustard sauce,
for which uninspired Ed canned her.

In wintry Midwest bistros she knew
dark times, as seen in the curious lines,
black-corn-masa crepes steamed and
rolled around inky corn mushrooms.

Mixed appetites met these efforts;
then, like fiery La Mancha wine sauce,
an epiphany came upon her, of verbs
to signal fussing on behalf of diners;

not the moiling of baked or fricasseed,
but the crusting, dusting, and dotting
once reserved for moguls and maharajas;
delicate actions of the chefs de cuisine.

In New York such participles as doused
and brushed caught the critics’ notice,
and with her Thai green-chili-rubbed
fennel-marinated bass
she dazzled them.

But the poet wrote not to please critics;
only to delight beloved diners, for whom
her menus sang of breasts jalapeZo-glazed,
and loins pistachio-crusted, citrus-planked.

Legend, doyenne of menuists, she aged
as gracefully as cognac until the year
she wilted like warmed salad leaves,
leaving for her epitaph these words:

No fruit but macerated,
no pear but maple-laced;
no tort but three-milk soaked,
no death but ash-dusted,
and dotted with tears.


Stolen Wishes

(Published in Rosebud, No. 43; runner-up, William Stafford Award )

You might have read or heard

that a man in Rome got nabbed

for filching wish-coins tossed

into the Trevi Fountain.

For years he’d stolen them:

yearnings for love, cures, riches,

a return to Rome, all those wishes

percolating in the waters

where Anita Ekberg frolicked

in La Dolce Vita, each about to

shed its metal coil and soar

Heavenward through the spume.

Explains a hell of a lot, doesn’t it,

why this one died before returning,

why that one’s purse stayed lost,

why the dark stranger ignored Jill?

And what about the loose change

you’ve hurled over your shoulder

into fountain after fountain, wishes

meant to effervesce in the murk?

Now you have to think about

night thieves dredging in the slime

to pocket your coins, guaranteeing

that you’ll never get on top of things,

your back will go on killing you,

some crumb who doesn’t need it

will win the lottery, not you, loser,

for all the charity you had in mind.

Copyright Arthur Plotnik 2010


Join the conversation I hope never ends ~

Contact Art at


Art is a cut above perfect.

Image of "Arthur Plotnik"

You might even say, he’s Better. Than. Great.


Toni 4/16/11


Tom Waits has appeared on this site before. His unique rendition of Young At Heart is on my September post. Don’t you just love it?


Since then, Waits has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After the rambling intro by Neil Young, there’s a series of clips from his movie work and a few vintage live performances. Waits is in great form.  He joins guitarist Marc Ribot for a live performance of “Make It Rain” and “Rain Dogs” and spins off a few anecdotes. Waits muses: “Songs are just very interesting things to be doing with the air.”



Musician, songwriter and poet. Tom Waits published his first collection of poems in March 2011 in collaboration with photographer Michael O’Brien.  Called Hard Ground, the book combines Waits’ words with O’Brien’s gritty pictures of homeless people. Waits has always been the bard of the down-and-out and O’Brien is a veteran photojournalist who has photographed the homeless throughout his career. O’Brien also shot the cover of Waits’ recent “Glitter and Doom” album (above).  All proceeds will go to the Redwood Food Bank, Sonoma County’s Homeless Referral Services and Family Support Center. These ‘outsider artists’ are making a difference in the lives of people in need. Even if you aren’t a traditional fan of poetry or Tom Waits, check out this project.


Follow this link to Tom Waits’ site to read the entire poem.


This is a publishing debut for Waits, a songwriter who, after 40 years, dozens of film appearances and about 20 albums, has noticeably avoided committing himself to print. He says, “Poetry is a very dangerous word. I don’t like the stigma that comes with being called a poet. So I call what I’m doing an improvisational adventure or an inebriational travelogue.”



Despite having issues in the past with that “very dangerous” word, however, Waits embraces the format in his song lyrics, readings, and, most recently, in his performance of a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem.

Hard Ground is serious and sincere. O’Brien spent 30 years as a photojournalist, winning prizes for his portraits and returned several times to the theme of homelessness. In the book, he and Waits convey the “common humanity” of people who live on the streets. They let the words and images “communicate on their own terms, rather than merely illustrate each other”. Hard Ground is modeled on the 1941 classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which combines James Agee’s poetry and Walker Evans’s photographs of Depression-era farmers.




This incorrigible dreamer, the son of two schoolteachers, is one raggedly beautiful poet. Take the story of Tom and Martha. Forty years after parting, Tom Frost calls his old sweetheart, Martha, and invites her for coffee to talk over old times~ the days of roses, poetry and prose. A simple tune. A plunky-sounding piano. A gravelly voice. Tom Waits shines his light on enduring love.



Toni 4/16/11