Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet
by Tony Hoagland
So our speaker wants to feel things. We can tell he's pretty sensitive to his surroundings and to his own feelings; his problem is that the main things he's feeling right now are boredom and detachment. He longs to feel more—from physical sensations like wind and water on his face, to feelings of excitement, awe, and power.
- Lines 7-10: This simile uses the distance from Seattle to New York as an estimate for the distance between him and his feelings. In addition to being funny, it helps us understand that physical and emotional distance can be connected. Throughout the poem, we get the sense that distance from the world, particularly from the wildness of nature, is connected to a sort of distance from (or absence of) emotion.
- Lines 43-44: By using the word "spitting," our speaker personifies the wind. Why? Well, it's a cool way of describing what our speaker really wants to feel. But also we think it sets up that feel of Man vs. Nature, or Man vs. The Elements. Which is something our speaker seems pretty stoked about. He likes the idea of the challenge, and the competition.
- Lines 48-50: This final simile is kind of like the opposite of the personification we just talked about. This time a person in the crew is compared to an animal, a gull. We think this is something our speaker really wants for himself—to be able to be more primal, more like an animal. Between the two (the personification and this simile) it seems like the distinction between Man and Nature is being blurred.