In her poem “The Girl with Antlers,” Ansel Elkins explores what it is to be an outsider. The main character is a girl born with a pair of deer antlers who is left in the forest to die by her mother’s midwife, but is taken in and raised by another woman. As Elkins says in a brief essay on this poem in a Poetry Society post, the antler girl is inspired by the monster in Frankenstein. Like the monster, the antler girl is cast out by society, although her isolation isn’t as complete as the monster’s because she has a caretaker. As in Frankenstein, the antler girl sees her reflection in a lake and comes to a realization about herself, although hers is more positive than the monster’s. The antler girl realizes that although she is different, there is a beauty in her strangeness, and as the author says in her Poetry Society post, she is “at home with … herself.”
Part of what makes this poem so enjoyable for me is how natural the antler girl feels. Obviously, people aren’t born with antlers, left to die by their mothers, taken in by strangers, and spend their days wandering naked through the woods, but the antler girl’s position as a social outcast is painfully familiar (and therefore relatable) to many people, including myself. Elkins uses enjambment liberally throughout the poem, which makes it flow more like a prose story. She also uses alliteration and assonance to reveal the importance of lines like “when I awoke I was alone in solitude’s blue woods.” These elements, combined with the vivid snapshots of her life in the woods, come together to form a beautiful poem about learning to accept and even love yourself as you are, without caring what the rest of the world thinks about you.