4 Poems which sum up University Life

1. Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith

“I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning…”

Drowning in work

Photo credit: success.com

Representational of: deadline overload

It’s beginning to get to that point in term: deadlines are fast approaching and the mental list of work you should be doing increases dramatically, along with your stress levels. It is at this time that you may feel like you’re drowning in a work overload. Stevie Smith’s poem “Not Waving but Drowning” conveys the same sense of panic that many students start to experience near the end of the term, when we feel we may have chosen “larking” over working one too many times. However, this feeling of being out of our comfort zone will most likely also occur in our future lives, and so the sooner we come to terms with this feeling, the sooner we can learn how to conquer it and achieve our goals.

2. Leisure by William Henry Davies

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare…”

Representational of: general uni busy-ness

There is always something happening at uni; if you’re not working you’re at a society event, if you’re not at a society event you’re eating domino’s pizza whilst watching a movie with friends and so on. It’s often hard to not get caught up in our generation’s new culture of efficiency and multi-tasking: with the development of smart phones, we can now play 2048 to our heart’s content whilst half-listening to a less stimulating lecture, or assess how long it will take before a washing machine becomes free so that we are not waiting awkwardly. We also often try to get involved in as much as possible, or else risk suffering from a bout of FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out). Although we all have our moments of laziness (I mean, leisure), we could maximise these and help minimise stress by asking ourselves whether we really would enjoy our fifth night out that week, or whether it is simply FOMO which is behind the desire to go.

3. Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”

Representational of: the feeling when a class is cancelled/you get a lie in

We’ve all experienced it. That wave of relief when you realise that the seminar you haven’t prepared sufficiently for gets rearranged to a different day, or when you wake up panicking at nine o’clock until you remember that your day only starts at twelve and you get a few more hours sleep yet. It is at these times that we perhaps feel a rush of warmth towards whatever stroke of luck fell upon us that day, such as that similarly expressed by Shakespeare to the Lovely Boy/Dark Lady in a large number of his love sonnets, and most famously in Sonnet 18.

4. Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

“So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.”

Cardiac Hill

Photo credit: pabloabufom.wordpress.com

Representational of: the stamina needed for cardiac hill

The poem “mother to son” by Langston Hughes is a beautifully written poem which uses the metaphor of a hill to represent the ‘uphill’ struggle of a woman who then passes on her advice to her son. However, when the poem is read literally one can’t help but see it as a motivational speech for trudging up cardiac hill/forum hill/any of the many hills we seem to have been stuck with. Although Cardiac may be challenging, next time imagine this poem of encouragement to help you beat the hill.

Laura Leichtfried

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