Moly Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Moly” is written in heroic couplets that have the incantatory effect of a spell or a charm. The repeated rhymes mirror the subject perfectly. The poem deals with states of transformation, specifically the effects of LSD upon the human brain. Even with such an unusual subject, Gunn uses conventional metrics and an allusion to one of the best-known works in the Western tradition, Homer’s Odyssey (c. 725 b.c.e.; English translation, 1614).

The poem begins with the speaker awaking to find he has been transformed into a beast. He attempts to find out exactly what type of animal he has become: “Parrot, moth, shark, wolf, crocodile, ass, flea./ What germs, what jostling mobs there were in me.” He finally recognizes that he is a pig. He has “bristles” and is “snouted.” “She,” presumably Circe, has brought on this unwelcome change, but, other than acknowledging her role, he says nothing more of her.

The speaker recognizes that the only human elements that remain within him are the eyes; other than this he is “buried in swine.” So, human perception is still there, but his mind and soul are bestial. He would “eat a man,” but he is afraid. There is an animal cunning and a predatory fear about him. These animal qualities, however, are not celebrated as they are in other poems. Now they define a lower condition.

The pig-man is rooting, but this is described as seeking his lost...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Moly Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alvarez, Al. “Marvell and Motorcycles.” The New Yorker 70 (August 1, 1994): 77-80.

Bartlett, Lee. “Thom Gunn.” In Talking Poetry: Conversations in the Workshop with Contemporary Poets, edited by Lee Bartlett. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987.

Bold, Alan. Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1976.

Dodsworth, Martin, ed. The Survival of Poetry. London: Faber & Faber, 1970.

Gioia, Dana. Barrier of a Common Language: An American Looks at Contemporary British Poetry. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

Grubb, Frederick. A Vision of Reality. London: Chatto & Windus, 1965.

Gunn, Thom. Thom Gunn in Conversation with James Campbell. London: BTL, 2000.

Hammer, Langdon. “The American Poetry of Thom Gunn and Geoffrey Hill.” In Something We Have That They Don’t: British and American Poetic Relations Since 1925, edited by Steve Clark and Mark Ford. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004.

Hennessy, Christopher. Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Sloan, La Rue Love. “Gunn’s ’On the Move.’” Explicator 46 (Spring, 1988): 44-48.