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Higher Education

by ShadowVyper

Graduate school
A school that

awards advanced academic degrees

Rewards academic overachievers

with the requirement that students must have

completed an undergraduate degree

complete devotion to their degree

and graduated with

an adequate grade point average

nothing less than honors, extracurriculars,

and radiant letters of recommendations


Students fill classrooms doing their best

to learn all that they can

to outshine their peers in every way

Feeling pressure to

complete assignments on time

excel at everything on the first try

And keep from falling

behind on coursework piling up in planners

into cycles of self-loathing and despair.


Departmental seminars to showcase

your research to colleagues

your incompetence and anxiety

Follow-up questions to spark

deeper scientific thought

doubts of your ability to continue in the program

Receptions afterwards to build

a sense of community

stronger self-destructive thoughts and feelings

The ride home, a perfect time

to reflect on lessons learned

bawl until your throat burns and shoulders heave.


Being a scientist means learning

all you can about the natural world

how to live with your own inability and failures

Knowing the truth

about vaccines and climate change

about the insecurities that threaten to drown you

every moment of every day

And offering kindness to people who refuse

to believe scientific theory

to listen when you say you're not okay. 

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178 Reviews

Points: 367
Reviews: 178

Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:34 am
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Vil wrote a review...

Hey there, ShadowVyper, it's Vilnius back with yet another review for you! (Also, I am extremely sorry if this seems to be a little scattered as my brain is all over the place at the moment. :P)

So, my first impression of this piece is really just-- wow, this is really neat! I really like this idea, it's amazing to finally see it somewhere, I love this! The comparison between the thoughts and / or emotions regarding graduates' school and what it literally means is just amazing!

I see no grammatical errors whatsoever! Hurrah!

It took me a moment to realize that I was supposed read it a certain way so I was really confused at first until I realized what I was supposed to do. If you would put a clarification at the start of your poem for future readers, that would be very useful for them.

Like @Morrigan said, a ''positive epiphany'' would be a great edition to your poems, and it would really add to the details that you've used.

Your wording here is unparalleled-- ''about the insecurities that threaten to drown you every moment of every day" is an especially strong example of how you can describe the emotional aspects of graduates'' school.

Unlike @SirenCymbaline, I do not see the left side as more positive and / or as much as it is more realistic and refined.

I think I would like to see this as two separate poems, maybe positioned one after the other so that they are more readable.

ShadowVyper says...

Heya Vil! Thanks so much for the review, I appreciate it!

Honestly, the scattered style was supposed to be part of the artistic choice to kinda drive home the chaos of emotions that this poem deals with. The left side is kinda supposed to be interpreted as what grad school is "supposed to be" where the right side is more what grad school actually is, if that makes sense?

Like the first line is supposed to be like a "definition of grad school" where

Grad school is "A school that awards advanced academic degrees" but instead what it REALLY is is "A school that rewards academic overachievers" if that makes sense? So having them separated is supposed to set up a compare-and-contrast that would be lost if they were two separate poems.

But it's always nice to get a fresh set of eyes, and I really appreciate that you took the time to read this and give me feedback on it! Thanks! :D

Vil says...

Define "fresh" XD

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Wed Aug 05, 2020 4:38 am
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Morrigan wrote a review...

Hello, ShadowVyper! I'm here to review your poem!

This is a cool concept. I appreciate what you've done here. You've essentially written two separate poems, but had them converge.

I was hoping that this would be three separate poems, that somehow the middle column would also make sense as a stand alone poem. I would be really impressed at that point, but I also understand how that might not work.

bawl until your throat burns and shoulders heave.
This line was a gut punch. I love it. As I was copying it, I also noticed that you're missing a "to" in front of it to make it coherently match up with the center column.

Feeling pressure to
While you have infinitives in other lines in the center column, none of the other center column lines end with "to." If you want to be consistent, tack it onto the beginnings of the divergent lines.

I feel like the last three lines in the poem are somehow the weakest. Are scientists supposed to be kind like that? And the negative nancy over there shouldn't be offering kindness when people don't want to listen. It doesn't make as much sense as the others, but you're the poet, so if you like it like that, leave it. It's not jarring enough for me to say I dislike it, but it did make me narrow my eyes because I was taken slightly out of the world of the poem. Honestly, I feel like you could take the last three lines out. Maybe tweak the positive side of the previous one a little to make it a better stopping point. I feel like it would be a stronger ending.

The only other piece of criticism that I can offer is that I kinda wanted to see more of an evolution or even epiphany from the positive side. I understand what you're doing, juxtaposing the "proper academic" with this poor desperate grad student, but what if the two were to meet? Maybe not face to face, but come to a similarly worded conclusion, but in different meanings? It's an idea I thought I'd throw out.

This poem made me think about my college days, though I am NOT going to grad school, especially after reading this poem. No thank you, anxiety and despair! I hope you find this review helpful, even after all the other great feedback you have, as well! Let me know if you have any questions! Happy poeting!

ShadowVyper says...

Thanks for the review! I appreciate it! Good luck on your next star ^.^

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Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:11 pm
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alliyah wrote a review...

This is still one of my favorite poems of 2019 Shady, it's a memorable one.

I really loved seeing how much you developed your poetry writing this year (especially in napo), and I think this one just has a lot of heart about something that many people in academics can relate to very personally. The formatting, the originality, the narrative, imagery and emotion that come through are really nice.

I think it'd be fun to play with the formatting even more - maybe putting it on a background of lined-paper, or making the header section look even more stylistic of a definition. Another quick note that I found some of the capitalization choices in the middle column distracting - because in the first "stanza" before the squiggly line break you use sentence-case capitalization, but then it seems to change to just all capitals so felt inconsistent and more broken up - that might be something to double check if you revise. And if you ever go for a rewrite, I think adding some of specificity about your specific scientific field, or just a bit more in terms of specific scientific procedure in the far left column would be a good addition to add more depth. You some specificity in "vaccines & climate change" but it seems almost generic at points compared to the far right column. But overall, this is very well done and I don't have a lot to critique.



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570 Reviews

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Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:27 pm
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Magebird wrote a review...

Hey there, @ShadowVyper! I promised I'd leave an actual review on this awhile ago, and I'm here to fulfill that promise. It has been awhile since I reviewed anything, so I apologize in advance if my review is lacking - my skills are a little rusty.

The first thing that stuck out to me when reading your poem was the formatting. The title was what drew me in, but the formatting was what made me keep reading. I love how you alternate between bold, regular and italicized font. I also really love how each font represents something different. The bold phrases are stems; you can add the regular or italicized font that follows to make a complete thought. The regular phrases are the textbook definitions of what college is, while the italicized font show a more negative, thought-based side. It's a cool juxtaposition, especially when the speaker seems to be going to going to school for something objective: science.

My one critique of the formatting would be how the first lines don't follow the same pattern as the rest of them. I know it's because it's the title, but it would be cool if you had an italicized thought right after "(noun)" to give the reader a hint of what you're building up to.

I mentioned this in my comment earlier, but the situations you described were surprisingly familiar to me. I'm only in my first year of my undergraduate studies, but there's definitely a vein of anxiety that runs under the work I do for my classes. I think a lot of my peers could relate, too. I think that's where the strength of this poem lies. While it's good to make poems personal through examples specific to the speaker - which you did do - there's something to be said for writing poetry that applies to a larger group of people. After all, your poem isn't titled "My Higher Education". The title doesn't even specifically refer to graduate school.

Overall, I really enjoyed this poem, and I'd love to reread it again someday in the future.

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Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:05 pm
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Athanasius wrote a review...

Evening from my side of the world. It has been quite some time since I've reviewed a piece of literary work, but I hope to do so fairly.

When I read the title, the first thing that came to mind was probably a bachelor's degree. As a university student myself, I got lulled in by the definition of "Graduate school", believing it might be a piece of poetry employing simply the actual literal meaning behind such a phrase. But a surprise did I have, as I further read and found the smooth way you managed to contrast the imagery society sells of a higher education, versus how it feels upon the general population of those who actually pursue such a life.

Structure wise I find it magnificent to read. As the viewer has the power to read according to how they may perceive this discussion. It's almost like a game of choosing which path do you find more relatable or ideal. You can see this when we reach the bold centered sentences, the viewer may choose to go read only the sentence on the right and continue to the next eye-catching darkened phrase, coming up with a sugar coated idolization of said life. Or perhaps, choose the left instead, and be faced with the pressures and overwhelming expectation that arises from having to compete to be noticed. Or even, read each side as one continues this piece, and find the mixture of both the struggles and the joys of going through this journey. Which upon culmination leaves you understanding there's three pieces of poetry mixed into one. Like puzzle pieces.

Grammar wise, I will not delve too deeply. For if I am understanding correctly, it is free verse; a rhyme isn't truly a prerequisite for poetry in general. Along that I did not see any misspellings.

Overall, I must say it is not difficult to comprehend, and it may only be confusing at first if the person comes in with a mind set on that this is only a scientific definition, which rapidly as one actually reads, we know this to not be true at all. For it mixes perfectly the facts vs. the reality of what is Higher Education.

ShadowVyper says...

Hi @Athanasius, thanks so much for the review! Somehow I didn't get a notification for this when you left it, but I appreciate it!

Athanasius says...

No worries

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Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:30 am
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Oshan wrote a review...

The structure of your poem just made me go "Wow". I have to say, I appreciate when writers not only think about the content of their writing, but also the aesthetic of it all. It brings the reader’s attention by just glancing at it. Props to you for being able to format it in such way!

My only drawback would be the fact, it took me some time to figure how to read your poem. Again, I can’t blame you, as the aesthetic wins before it.

Hope to see more of you :)

ShadowVyper says...

Hi @Oshan, thanks so much for the review! I didn't get a notification for this when you left it, but I appreciate it!

Oshan says...

Hihi no problem. :D

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570 Reviews

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Wed Dec 11, 2019 12:38 pm
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Magebird says...

I know this is an old poem and about a level of schooling I haven't reached yet, but I found it incredibly relatable and well-written. I'll do an actual review on this once my winter break begins - I just wanted to let you know how much I loved it now. <3

ShadowVyper says...

Aw thank you friend <3 I appreciate the kind words and look forward to a review ^.^

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Mon Dec 09, 2019 2:24 pm
LZPianoGirl wrote a review...

Hello! I have to say, I really enjoyed this poem. First, you formatted this very well. It really shows what you are trying to say well. But, you have to read it once or twice to understand it. You portray the truth well, but I must say you exaggerated a bit. You were able to come up with negatives for every positive (or fact). The punctuation, grammar, and spelling was wonderful. Keep on writing and Merry (early) Christmas!

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Mon Dec 09, 2019 1:07 pm
Softballgirl333 says...

Wow, this is absolutely fantastic, and I wanted to try to review, but honestly I have nothing to say. You portrayed this in the best possible way, and I am still in shock. Wonderful job.

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Sat Feb 23, 2019 4:32 pm
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OofOof1 wrote a review...

I like the style of the story. It's a good peom. All of the lines scattered around everywhere made me confused though. I know that is how your poem goes so you don't have to change it if you don't want to.

Graduate school
A school that

That was the part that got me confused because I thought it was a title.

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525 Reviews

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Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:58 pm
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Tuckster says...

Spoiler! :
Holy heck, dude. This is /good/. And I'm not just saying that because I feel obligated to; this legitimately had me at a loss for words. You're incredible <333

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Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:10 pm
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niteowl says...

OMG this is too real. I remember too well the angsty grad school days. This isn't a proper review, but I have to say it's funny that there's so much emphasis on class work here, because my advisor said that's what we should care the least least until annual review time came around and he said my GPA should be higher like he didn't give me half those Bs. One time, I got a 42/100 on one of his tests and I was legitimately thrilled haha.

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Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:43 pm
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SirenCymbaline wrote a review...

Daaaaayum this must have been complicated to program the arrangement of the spacing for this, props to that dedication.

The placement of the lines down the sides, with the bold text in the middle leading to them while staying the constant in the middle, is innovative and I like the disorienting effect it has.
The disorientation fits with the themes of being overwhelmed by expectations, and there's nothing I like in poetry more than a tailor-fit format that boosts the feels of the piece.

And with the brochurey stuff on the left side, and the depressing side on the right? Yes. I like.

And the middle text being in bold helps differentiate all three parts nicely, and overall make the carefully sectioned mess nice and cohesive.

Every time I re-read this, I got a bit more out of it.

The left side is meant to be more positive, but despite my using the word 'brochurey' earlier, it feels less like that, and more like a student's robotic attempt to describe the experience of education in a way that their environment will consider acceptable.
I feel like that says more than if it was purely a positive side. It illustrates a kind of cynicality that disguises itself, either because it doesn't want to be disturbed by others, or because it is actually trying to be positive, but this is the best it can do at the moment.

That's all speculation and projection on my part, but I hope you're glad to see that this is the kind of piece that a lot of people are going to get a lot out of, even if it's not exactly what you intended.

I don't really have any criticism for this, sorry >.<

But the last three lines really get to me. Even the 'positive' side here acknowledges harsh realities, and the final message from the 'negative' side couldn't be clearer.

Overall, the feels are real, and please keep experimenting with format.

Thxbye ;3

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Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:13 am
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FlamingPhoenix wrote a review...

Hello, Shady. I am here with a short review for you. I won't take up much of your time.

Now this poem was very true in every way. And it was fun to read, and funny enough it was a little funny. But I did have a little trouble following with your lines being all over the place, it would be better if they were all under each other, but that is just my opinion. So if you don't think you should change it I understand.
I do have to say the stile of the poem is cool, just for me it was hard to follow, that's all. I do hope to see more poems form you Shady. There really good. And I like your riming and your punctuation is really good, so I can get some really good tips from you.
I hope you never stop writing and have a great day/night.

Your friend
FlamingPhoenix. :D
Reviewing with a fiery passion.

I'm also not sure why but even though I normally wear cool tones I have a feeling red would have been my color in the 1860s.
— Elinor