Poems For Making Sense of Freshers

Coming to university and being a Fresher is both exhilarating and daunting. Impact’s art editor Lauren offers six poems that encapsulate the experiences of freshers and starting university.

Literature has always held a power in using language to express experience and capture what it is to be human. I’ve selected six poems with pertinent messages for freshers from a range of classic and contemporary poets.

‘If—’ (excerpt) by Rudyard Kipling

Although this poem might conjure up memories of school days, being an English class favourite, If— remains a brilliant poem for starting university. There’s a certain majesty to this poem, with its repeated ‘if’ refrain and the aspirational qualities it describes.

I like to think that university equips students with the self-awareness and critical thinking abilities to emulate the person embodied in ‘If’:

‘keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs…./trust yourself when all men doubt you’.

‘Last Night’ (excerpt) by Vanessa Kisuule.

Themed club nights are popular during Freshers, and for those who like to party, Vanessa Kisuule’s poem is the perfect read. Kisuule humorous account captures the highs and lows of night out clubbing with friends.

Whether you’re staying in or going out, join Kisuule on the start of her journey from the bedroom to the queue and bouncer. (The following poem contains uses of profanity.)

‘Message’ by Allen Ginsburg

One of the most famous poets of the Beat generation, Allen Ginsburg is possibly best known for Howl.

Yet the evocative Message encapsulates missing a dear friend in its stream of consciousness style and is a great reminder to keep in touch with old friends whilst exploring the opportunities of university.

‘Coordinates’ by Yrsa Daley Ward

University is often the first time that you’ve moved away from home for an extended period of time, possibly the first time you’ve been to Nottingham. Whether you’ve living at home and commuting, or you’ve moved here from the opposite end of the country, or from another country altogether, Yrsa Daley Ward’s poem is an empowering approach to travelling:

‘Every time I travel/I meet myself a little more.’

Stanza V in ‘East Coker’ from The Four Quartets (excerpt) by T.S. Eliot

The oldest poem in this selection, I’ve chosen T.S. Eliot’s East Coker as I feel he translates the existentialist uncertainty of youth into mesmerising verse. Going to university brings so many changes to almost every aspect of your life as a student.

Whether you’re in need of reassurance or encouragement, Eliot has some wise words that remind me to make the most of university experiences, regardless of outcome:

‘For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.’

‘Sarah’ by Charlotte Lunn.

Charlotte Lunn is a local poet and regular featured act across Nottingham open mic nights. Living in halls of residence or sharing a house can be a brilliant experience, albeit with the occasional tensions as you navigate living with others.

In ‘Sarah’ Charlotte explores the mixed emotions and conflicts that can occur within friendships through the quintessential university experience of making a cuppa.


This is not a stay for tea

though you want it

so badly to be

this is not the time to offer

just because she brought you milk

an expectation of kettle simmers as

she moves a little past the door

you stare at everything you know so well

and not at all anymore

before she goes to get her bus

a bag full of reminders

lay strewn on the floor.

If you’re a fan of poetry, keep an eye out for Impact’s monthly poetry showcase, and a trip to Hallward library’s shelves is always rewarding.

Lauren Winson

Featured image and article images 1-6 courtesy of Lauren Winson and their respective authors. Article image 7 taken by @cms_britain and is courtesy of @lottie_poet via Instagram. Image use licence here.  

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