Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, THE SUMMER-CANP BUS PULLS AWAY FROM THE CURB, by SHARON OLDS

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

THE SUMMER-CANP BUS PULLS AWAY FROM THE CURB, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb" is a poem by Sharon Olds, first published in her collection "The Dead and the Living" in 1984. Olds is known for her frank and personal poetry, often exploring themes of family, love, and sexuality.


The poem begins with the image of a summer-camp bus pulling away from the curb, as the speaker watches from the sidewalk. The scene is described in vivid detail, with the speaker noting the dirt on the bus and the sound of the engine. As the bus drives off, the speaker reflects on the children on board, wondering about their experiences at camp and imagining the joys and sorrows they might encounter.

The poem then shifts to a more personal reflection, as the speaker remembers her own experiences at summer camp. She recalls the excitement of arriving at camp, the sense of independence and freedom, and the friendships she formed with other girls. But she also remembers the pain of homesickness, the loneliness of being away from family, and the fear of being excluded or bullied by other campers.

As the poem comes to a close, the speaker returns to the image of the bus, now disappearing down the road. She acknowledges the bittersweet nature of the moment, recognizing that the children on the bus are embarking on a journey that will shape them forever, just as her own experiences at camp have shaped her.

Poetic Elements:

  • Structure: The poem is written in free verse, with no consistent meter or rhyme scheme. The stanzas vary in length, ranging from two to eight lines.
  • Imagery: Olds uses vivid imagery to bring the scene of the bus pulling away to life, describing the dirt on the bus, the sound of the engine, and the sight of the children waving goodbye.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is wistful and nostalgic, with the speaker reflecting on the joys and pains of her own experiences at summer camp.
  • Symbolism: The summer-camp bus serves as a symbol for the passage of time and the journey of life, as the children on board embark on a journey of growth and self-discovery.


"Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb" is a poignant reflection on the joys and pains of childhood and the passage of time. Through vivid imagery and personal reflection, Olds captures the bittersweet nature of growing up and the lasting impact of formative experiences like summer camp. The absence of a consistent rhyme scheme or meter allows Olds to explore these themes in a free and spontaneous manner, while the use of symbolism adds depth and richness to the poem. Ultimately, the poem offers a powerful reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood and the importance of cherishing the memories that shape us.

Poem Snippet:

And now the bus is gone,

its red dust settling in the sun,

the sound of its engine fading

into the silence of the street.

Copyright (c) 2024 PoetryExplorer

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net