In her nostalgic poem “Centaur”, May Swenson defines an optimal childhood through the speaker’s reminiscence about the summer play of a ten year old tom boy, grasping every carefree moment of youth. The speaker captures this girl’s imagination through her depiction of a metaphorical centaur, who is a girl who becomes part horse in her mind. The speaker’s reflection of this specific summer reveals a lack of responsibility and an abundance of opportunities comprise a lighthearted adolescence. The poem begins with an illustration of the speakers childhood, the speaker can hardly believe there was only one such summer. This portrays the importance of this particular summer in effect to the speaker’s life. In the poem the girl stated “I’d go on my two bare feet,” which symbolizes her innocence and freedom. Being barefooted provides a person with sensitivity to their surroundings. The fact that she was barefooted was symbolic to her lack responsibility. She was isolated from society’s perspective which created a chance for an imagined altered world within her mind. Through the speaker’s creative conception of the world, the speaker describes a child’s psychological need for the freedoms of childhood. The alteration of the physical world through the mind releases that person from worry, which no child should have. The escapism that is expressed throughout the poem demonstrates a child’s need to pretend, to become something else. At first she describes how she would ride the horse then it shifts to she was one with the horse, she was part horse before she had to come back to reality. She “was both the horse and the rider”. This mythological creature she has now become provides her with a sense of control. The poem’s description of this transformation conveys limitless sources of imagination of the mind of a lighthearted girl. The speaker depicts the freedom imagination achieves. The emphasis on the power it brings is expressed through her illustration of a metaphorical centaur. The poem
describes this child’s fantasy of riding a horse that is really just a willow branch, and then pretending to be a horse herself. May Swenson achieves this ascent into the reality of the imaginary and then descends. She implies that perhaps to this girl she will always have this horse within her. She conveys a girl and a horse, and a horse and a rider simultaneously. The poem focuses on the horse and physical details and feelings that identify the manifestation of a horse in this girl. These descriptions emphasis the innocence of this girl’s escapism and captures a child’s sense of imagination.