Core Decorum: Junior Poet Advice

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Dear junior English majors,

It’s that time of year again.  It’s JPo season — the season in which one can catch the not-so-rare sight of a frantic English major shaking from too much espresso while balancing half a dozen or more books on the same poet. It’s a scary sight to  non-English majors, but to the seniors who have taken the course, it’s a familiar and all too relatable experience.

Handling stress during JPo is hard.  On the one hand, you are taking one of the hardest classes at UD and on the other hand you have four other classes and your social life has somehow fallen at your feet. Oops.  But there are a few things I learned in my experience with JPo that you can do to make the experience easier.

  1. Fall in love with your poet. I mean, really. You’re gonna be spending a lot of time with this person; you might as well love their work. Don’t make reading their poetry a source of stress — that isn’t gonna help you understand the poetry at all. Which leads me to perhaps the most important part …
  2. Don’t freak out if you don’t understand the poetry at first. Don’t demand an explanation of the poem the moment you finish it. When you read a poem for the first time, take in your first impression. How did you react to it? Were you struck by its beauty or the sadness of the lyric voice? Once you identify what is standing out to you about the poem, try to figure out why. What was it about the diction that makes you react that way? Or the theme? Or a metaphor?
  3. Make your bed. Go to the gym. Make sure you feel like you’re taking care of yourself physically. Because, believe it or not, your physical health does affect your mental health.
  4. Every once in awhile, take a night off. From all of it. Watch a movie with your friends or go out for a coffee. Give yourself a mental break. Not too often, of course, but give yourself an occasional night to breathe. You’ll find that you have more energy the next day.

Good luck!

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