The concept of hot-girl-as-springbok gives Grace Arenas the inspiration for a poem at the intersection of entertainment and sonic discovery.
The time: 2005.
The place: Cape Town, South Africa.
The final six contestants of America’s Next Top Model (cycle 4) are posing astride a live crocodile for a moisturizer ad, all dressed as different native animals. Honestly, the whole tableau is a poem in and of itself. Kahlen’s embodiment of a springbok is lauded by the judges, and she advances in the competition.
That concept of hot-girl-as-springbok became the clunky, literal inspiration for this piece, for I don’t believe that there’s any reason to shy away from the clunky and literal in poetry. And it was those qualities that kept the drafting of this poem really clean—I did not intend to write a critique nor a commentary (though sure, it could maybe be read that way), but rather to just posit what would happen if a literal springbok were to in fact compete on Season 24 of ABC’s The Bachelor. I mean why not? I did a little basic research into springboks—their diet, their behaviors, etc.—and, as antelopes go, they really do seem like they would fit right in at the Bachelor Mansion. The whole piece did not take long to write at all, save for time spent falling into internet rabbit holes of South African faunal ecology.
These rabbit holes led to a lot of great sonic discoveries. Like, the minute I learned that pronk is a verb specific to springboks, I did a tiny little poet-dance of victory in front of my laptop the way poets do when we find the most delicious word imaginable. Likewise with learning one specific springbok habitat is the shrublands of Karoo. I can’t even really take credit as a writer for how beautifully that scans, that’s just where they live! The factual triumphs over the agonized hand-wringing of craft.
Or maybe craft just becomes instinctual over time, and the effort is subconscious. I just think that we get it in our heads (or more often than not, have it put in our heads) that the poem must have a Big Idea, must be fraught and meaningful and meticulously formed. But consciously permitting yourself to think a bit more superficially than we’re taught to do in workshops frees you up to just have fun writing something. There’s a need for the gravitas in poetry, but there’s a need for the frivolous as well. For myself at least, I know that the faster and looser I’ve played with the conception and construction of a poem, the more I’ve liked the end product. Maybe it’s the reality show fan in me: quality writing and good acting have their time and place, but I know where I’m going for my pure entertainment value.