Top ten animals – #8, Narwhal

I was surprised by how many cetaceans made it into my longlist. Part of it, perhaps, is that the difficulty of seeing marine animals adds to their desirability. And of course a lot of whales are *big*. Anyway, I considered Blue Whale, Killer Whale, Beluga, and Sperm Whale, and though Sperm Whale came closest (Moby Dick!) in the end, I went for the Narwhal, Monodon monoceros.

By whale standards, it’s not that big – the body’s only 4-5m [only!] – although the male’s tusk can add another 3m. What an extraordinary thing, though, that long, spiralling tooth. We tend to imagine that narwhal tusks were taken as unicorn horns because of a coincidental similarity; that one long spiralling ‘horn’ was assumed to be another. But actually, that form, the long helical tooth, is pretty much unique to narwhals. All those medieval images of unicorns were derived from the narwhal horns.

Another picture:

These are really special animals.

Mutant poetry

Ever since I read Mutants, I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a group of poems around the idea of mutants and mutation.

The human (and indeed animal) stories – poor old Charles Byrne, freak-shows, the Elephant Man, court dwarves, superheroes and so on – are interesting source material; the science is somewhat interesting and provides extra source material by its connection to natural selection, ontogeny, Chernobyl, teratogens; the general idea of mutation has all sorts of metaphorical possibilties; and the word is attention-grabbing.

One possibility would be a set of ‘mutant sonnets’. The baseline of an established form would allow the formal mutation of the poems to be made apparent. Alternatively, the language could be ‘mutated’ in other ways. And the theme doesn’t have to extend to formal/linguistic considerations at all.

Something to consider. Perhaps a trip to the Hunterian is in order.