Stories & poems perfect for study breaks

Reading recommendations by professionals and peers

All of these works bring something to the table.
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Whether you’re an English major whose course load is slowly killing your love for literature or a psychology major drained from looking at statistics, here’s a list of short, reviving poems and stories to have open on a tab next to your Google Docs.

Ezra Pound’s imagist poems

Ezra Pound is best known for the quasi-hallucinogenic effect of “In a Station of the Metro,” but he achieved the same effect with a couple of other poems.

Xenia” opens by situating the reader in a busy Soho street until: “Out of the overhanging gray mist/ There came an ugly little man/ Carrying beautiful flowers.”

The poem continues in Pound’s signature imagist flashes until the speaker confronts them, demanding meaning and explanation in a near-meltdown.

What I love most about the poem is its end: “Know then that I loved you from afore-time.”

The speaker turns to the audience, who in reading the poem has learned to tell “their truth / as I have taught them to tell it.” It’s nice having Ezra Pound tell you he loves you from 1913 when you’re neck-deep in essays and over-annotated texts.

“Xenia” is about 250 words and goes down easy—though it invites you to stay. If you’re left wanting more of his short imagist poetry but are unsure where to start, check out “Fragment,” “Fragmenti,” and “Image from D’Orleans.”

The Rossettis

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poems are as gorgeous as his paintings. If you want something sappy, something with beautiful rhythm and rhyme, look no further than his lovesick sonnet sequence “The House of Life.”

No. 19—“Silent Noon”—may be the apex of romance. Lie in a field of wildflowers with your lover as their “eyes smile peace,” and yearn for summer with me.

His sister and poetic successor, Christina Rossetti, wrote lovingly and longingly as well. Her sonnet “After Death” is the eerie musings of a dead woman, writing affectionately about her still-living but unrequited love visiting her body.

Christina Rossetti’s work hums with a Mitski-esque resignation to loneliness. Reading her feels like someone’s walking their fingertips across your arm.

Lyrical and sweet, the Rossettis fill my craving for straightforwardly beautiful poems.

Your peers

The Queen’s community features no shortage of talented writers.

One of my favorites is Urooj Salar’s “More than Physics” in Ultraviolet magazine. The story follows Kian, a physics major with a crush on a classmate. It’s a simple story—guy gets girl—but Salar writes with such attention to detail and drawn tension and makes the most of the unsaid.

My favorite line is: “he'd written his first poem about her, only to fold into a tiny square and place it in a corner of the fireplace at his parents’ house. It was poorly written anyway.”

Daniel Green’s “Walking Home” was published in Quilt’s 2021 mini-zine, Threads. Sometimes, I cry just thinking about it. Green writes with an honesty you could cringe away from but with lure enough to make you stay. Creative nonfiction, “Walking Home” connects life events the same way you do: unknowingly, until the build breaks the dam.

Finally, I’ve had flashbacks to Sophie DeFreitas’s poem “Pillars of Salt” since I read it in The Undergraduate Review’s 32nd issue. The speaker switches between harsh line breaks and condensed stanzas to infuse the poem with idiosyncrasy and character.

Corrections

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Christina Rossetti as Gabriel Rossetti’s daughter.

The Journal regrets the error.

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