Sharon Olds: Poems

Analysis of "I Go Back to May 1937" College

Sharon Olds is renowned for keeping her readers on their toes and changing the direction of her poems drastically and without warning (Galens). This remains especially true in her poem “I Go Back to May 1937”. Olds’ brash style ensures that her message is clearly delivered but her original and sometimes unexpected use of imagery keeps that delivery fresh and entertaining. “I Go Back to May 1937” is about a girl imagining her parents in a time before she was born when they were graduating college. In retrospect she understands the extent in which they have changed since “they [were] dumb, all they know is they are /innocent, they would never hurt anybody” (lines 11-12). The reader contemplates warning them of the misery they will incur in the future and break up their wedding relationship before it begins but she cannot do this because it would terminate her own life in the process. Resigning to acceptance, the speaker in the poem decides nothing can be done to change what has already happened. Through the use of powerful diction and shocking imagery, Olds employs a unique stylistic approach to illustrate the time-old truth that one can never change the past.

Olds begins her poem with a tone of impartial reminiscence, describing...

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