Moon-Whales and Other Moon Poems is an enduring part of Ted Hughes’s contribution to literature for young readers. Like much of his other work—stories and plays as well as poems—this book aims to bring young readers into contact with mysterious, foreboding, often dark aspects of experience that, according to Hughes, are sometimes suppressed or sanitized by contemporary children’s writers. His aim is to revitalize, to preserve, and to nurture the child’s capacity to imagine, to tap into the inner landscape of the psyche and to face the outer world of raw physical nature. Moon-Whales and Other Moon Poems explores a world of dream and nightmare, sometimes fearful but also magical and transforming.
In other books of poetry, Hughes directs attention toward an equally mysterious realm: the outer world of nature, which is powerful, vital, and foreign. Season Songs (1975) describes the natural cycles of birth and death that link the human and animal realms, while Under the North Star (1981) sees nature as powerful and vast, indifferent to human desires, a source of awe and imaginative regeneration. What all Hughes’s collections share is a vision of poetry not as a means of sentimentalizing or prettifying the world but as a vehicle for confronting the powerful, irrational forces that contemporary society, trusting blindly in scientific certitude and the power of technology, often tries to ignore.