Form and Content
Moon-Whales and Other Moon Poems is a collection of fifty-four short poems that resist easy classification. Individually, the poems describe the bizarre plant and animal life that occupy the poet’s fantasy moonscape, creatures ranging from gossiping moon-cabbages to a powerful burrow wolf who hides in “moon holes” and swallows blazing meteorites. Ted Hughes also describes several human (or human-like) inhabitants—for example, a group of people who travel by clinging to one another in a giant ball that rolls across the moon’s surface. Despite its strange inhabitants, the geography of Hughes’s moon resembles that of the actual moon, complete with deep craters, barren wastes, and vast, eerie silences. Taken together, the poems in the collection evoke a frightening world, part fantasy and part nightmare. Many of the moon-creatures are grotesque and violent, pursuing victims who, in one poem, are “turned inside out/ And sucked dry like an orange” or transformed “instantly into a puff of purple mist.” Yet, there is another side to this world. Several poems evoke a sense of wonder, creating a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland distortion of ordinary experience that delights as much as it terrifies.
Among the most striking poems in the book are those describing animals. The title poem, “Moon-Whales,” for example, offers a vivid picture of the giant “sea” creatures moving gracefully underground, “lifting the moon’s skin/ Like a muscle” and plunging “deep/ Under the moon’s plains.” The moon-whales’ songs includes single notes that last hundreds of years. Other animal poems describe moon-hyenas whose mad laughter...
(The entire section is 678 words.)