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“I Go Back to May 1937” Essay

– One paragraph on imagery in the poem
– One paragraph on a literary element of your choice (metaphors, similes, etc.) “I Go Back to May 1937” is a wonderfully crafted poem by Sharon Olds. This poem has more meaning than you give it, for the imagery and foreshadowing it is filled with. This poem tells you a story of how the narrator’s father and mother met and how their life expanded from there.”I see my father strolling out / under the ochre sandstone arch, the / red tiles glinting like bent/plates of blood behind his head” (2-5) feels like it’s such a wonderful day. New young people are graduating into the real world and everyone’s proud of them. Yet, reading closely shows you that the red tiles are bent “like plates of blood” is not just a color description. There is something so mysterious and foreboding behind him on such beautiful a graduation day.

The ominous scene appears again at “I/ see my mother with a few light books at her hip/ standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks/ the wrought iron gate still open behind her, its/ sword-tips aglow in the May air” (5-9) This time, the author puts in “sword-tips aglow in the May air”. Is it because the gate shall close on her life again and she will never be able to receive the happiness she should have gotten? The sharp knife finally cuts and twists into you when the narrator says, “You are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of/You are going to want to die” (18-19). After this one graduation day, everything breaks into pieces. The narrator is still worrying years later, even when he/she is finally an adult. The poem sends great images of how everything happened.

Every word is carefully crafted so it fits and gives you the story the poet wishes to give you. The first two lines already give you an image of a young man leaving his college, strolling through this arch into his life, into his future. He is confident with his stride, not skipping, nor trudging. During the fifth and sixth line, there is a young woman there. She is more fragile, like carefully blown glass. She is the intellectual type as shown holding a few books, and lingering there at the gate, not moving. She is anticipating the time that she enters the world as a woman.

Toward the end of the poem, the poet says “Take them up like the male and female/ paper dolls and bang them together/ at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to/ strike sparks from them” (26-29). This is where you see just two dolls, who’s expressions change and they cry out as the narrator hits them at each other. In the end though, the anger just burns out and all the narrator can do is decide “Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it” (30).


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