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With finals week quickly approaching, I can already feel my stress begin to build. The idea of cram studying and writing papers is daunting and overwhelming. But, during these crazy times, we have to always remember to take care of ourselves. This can mean taking a long shower, drinking some tea, or—in my case—sitting down to read some good poetry. Below are some of my favorite poems—that bring me inner peace and give me the confidence to continue my day. 

Remember” by Joy Harjo

This poem is by far one of my favorites. It focuses on remembering where you come from and where you are in the current moment. It’s a really grounding piece of work, great for when you feel your mind racing in a million directions. 

Up–Hill” by Christina Rossetti

“Up–Hill” focuses on the happiness and peace that comes after a long journey. It’s the perfect poem to think on when you feel like life is against you and all of your battles are “up hill.”

Little prayer” by Danez Smith

Short and sweet, this poem gives you feelings of strength, comfort, and optimism in order to fuel your day. Its last line, “let this be the healing/ & if not let it be,” helps remind us that the world has a plan for us and all will heal with time.

Hymn to Time” by Ursula K. Le Guin

“Hymn to Time” is an amazing poem for when you’re having existential crises or when the concept of time just seems overwhelming. This poem helps find peace during times of uncertainty by reminding us that the passage of time is beautiful and powerful in all the right ways. 

O Sun of Real Peace” by Walt Whitman

I don’t know about you, but one of the most calming feelings in the world is walking outside on a sunny day and feeling the warmth of the sun sink into your skin. Whitman captures the beauty of the sun in his poem by acknowledging the peace it brings to so many.

I Many Times Thought Peace Had Come” by Emily Dickinson 

This is the kind of poem I reach for when I’m four study guides deep during finals week and begin to feel like there’s no end of the madness in sight. Dickinson succinctly expresses a hope for peace even when it hasn’t yet come. This is the perfect reminder to stay positive and optimistic during tough times. 

Peace” by Sara Teasdale  

“Peace” is a short poem that depicts the beauty of true inner peace. During times when I’m overwhelmed, this poem helps me remember to take deep breaths and sometimes even meditate to find some inner harmony.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth

This poem was written during the middle of the Civil War and has everlasting significance. It addresses the feelings of certain defeat and feeling that there’s nothing good or right in the world—but then it reminds us to keep hoping for the possibility of good things to come. Wadsworth wrote the perfect piece to remind readers to keep chugging along even when you’re certain nothing good will come of it.

The poems listed above are diverse, but all deal with central themes of inner peace and hope. While reading poems may not be your go–to way to calm yourself during tough times, I recommend trying them. I find I really enjoy empathizing with writers from all over the world and all different decades time, as well as reading similar emotions to those I may be feeling in the moment. Not only do poets’ words bring me peace, but they provide the knowledge that I’m not alone.

Rachael is a Senior at UPenn studying Neuroscience. When Rachael isn't busy with school work, you can catch her walking her Havanese puppy, Bella, or boxing at her favorite gym.
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