Can you recommend any poems about university life?
July 19, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend any poems about university life? It is for a book group where we're reading some campus novels and we're looking for a poem on the same subject.
posted by janecr to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Probably too obscure for most tastes, but "The Masque of B-ll--l" (that is, Balliol) is a famous Victorian example.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:26 AM on July 19, 2006

This may (or may not!) be inappropriately themed, but I present the lyrics to Tom Lehrer's Bright College Days.
posted by jammer at 10:37 AM on July 19, 2006

"Cloistered" by Seamus Heaney
"Generic College" by John Updike
"Randall Jarrell, Office Hours 10-11" by Randall Jarrell
"Resolve" by Sylvia Plath
"The Student" by Marianne Moore

I bet you are reading Goodbye, Columbus.
posted by mattbucher at 10:51 AM on July 19, 2006

“At the California Institute of Technology”

I don’t care how God-damn smart
these guys are: I’m bored.

It’s been raining like hell all day long
and there’s nothing to do.

- Richard Brautigan

(Written January 24, 1967
while poet-in-residence at
the California Institute of
Technology. )
posted by Lucinda at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not Goodbye, Columbus, but:

The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury
The Trick of It, Michael Frayn
posted by janecr at 11:05 AM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: I'm intrigued by the sound of the Randall Jarrell Office Hours one but can't find it online, or even what book it might be in. Any ideas?
posted by janecr at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2006

It's in his book of complete poems. Let me see if I can go dig it up and post it here. ....
posted by mattbucher at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2006

Would you mind telling me what campus novels you're reading, please? My e-mail's in my profile if you don't want us to get off-topic here. Thanks!
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2006

Oh, and Timothy Steele's "Advice to a Student" (from The Color Wheel).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:32 PM on July 19, 2006

I love this poem by Ted Kooser. It's in his book, Delights & Shadows.


The green shell of his backpack makes him lean
into wave after wave of responsibility,
and he swings his stiff arms and cuffed hands,

paddling ahead. He has extended his neck
to its full length, and his chin, hard as a beak,
breaks the cold surf. He's got his baseball cap on

backward as up he crawls, out of the froth
of a hangover and onto the sand of the future,
and lumbers, heavy with hope, into the library.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:34 PM on July 19, 2006

I always thought of Yeats' Politics as a university scene.
posted by rafter at 1:23 PM on July 19, 2006

When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer

When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

-- Walt Whitman
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2006

I don't know if you are still reading or not, but I finally dug up that Randall Jarrell poem. It was never published anywhwere besides his office door and collected poems (1969). Here it is.

Dear Mr. Jarrell:
It seems that the twenty-fourth floor is complaining of lost students who are hunting you. Could you put your name and office hours on the door?
Thank you.
The English Office
[University of Texas, at Austin]


Mr Jarrell:
Come back and you will find me just the same
Hunters, hunters--but why should I go on?
Learn for yourself (if you are made to learn)
That you must haunt an hourless, nameless door
Before you find--not me, but anything.

Lost Students:
It never seemed to me that I was lost.
You were, perhaps; at least, no one was there.
I missed you; why should I go back?
I am no hunter, I say. I was sent
And asked to find--not you, not anything.

English Office:
Each of them is lost, and neither hunting;
And they stand still around a crazy door
That tells a truth, or lie, that no one learns.
Here is a name, an hour for you to use:
But name, or come, or come not, as you choose.

posted by mattbucher at 7:20 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

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