Abandoned Farmhouse

By Ted Kooser


📖 Abandoned Farmhouse is a captivating poem by Ted Kooser that paints a vivid picture of a house left deserted. Through the quiet and stillness of the scene, Kooser tells a powerful story about the lives that once filled these spaces. The poem belongs to the genre of American poetry and reflects on themes of loss, history, and the passage of time.

Ted Kooser is a renowned American poet and essayist, known for his clear, accessible verse and profound attention to detail. His work often focuses on the American Midwest and brings to life the ordinary aspects of everyday life with a touch of poignancy and reflective insight. Abandoned Farmhouse, with its straightforward language yet deep emotional resonance, is a quintessential example of Kooser’s poetic style.

Meaning of Abandoned Farmhouse

In Abandoned Farmhouse, Kooser explores the narrative of a family’s life as inferred from the objects and state of an abandoned house. Each section of the poem contributes to a cumulative portrait of the past inhabitants, suggested through their possessions and the home they left behind.

Opening section: The poem begins by setting the scene with a detailed description of the farmhouse. Phrases like “He was a big man, says the size of his shoes” suggest the physical presence of the former inhabitants, using their belongings as silent testaments to their existence.

Mid section: As the poem progresses, the middle stanzas delve deeper into the personality and possible life events of the family. “Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes” indicates financial struggles juxtaposed with a life of self-sufficiency and simple joys.

Concluding section: The final part of the poem reflects on the broader implications of abandonment, hinting at the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The silence and emptiness are poignant, leaving readers to contemplate the transient nature of human endeavors.

In-depth Analysis

The poem Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser is a masterful example of how everyday objects can be imbued with narrative significance. Here’s a detailed look at how Kooser crafts this narrative:

Stanza 1:

  • Imagery and Symbolism: The house is described as “tall” and “lonely,” setting a somber tone that mirrors the isolation of its last inhabitants.
  • Syntax and Diction: Short, declarative sentences mimic the abruptness of abandonment.

Stanza 2:

  • Figurative Language: Metaphors like “the bible left open” suggest a spiritual or desperate clinging to faith amidst hardship.
  • Literary Techniques: The use of personification, as seen in “the windows are boarded,” conveys a sense of finality and closure.

Stanza 3:

  • Symbolic Language: References to “toys” and a “child’s sandbox” evoke a poignant sense of lost childhood and frozen time.
  • Use of Contrast: The stark reality of the empty house contrasts with the once vibrant life suggested by the scattered personal items.

Stanza 4:

  • Symbolism: The “jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes” symbolize the attempts of the household to prepare for the future, representing both hope and necessity.
  • Diction: Kooser chooses simple yet potent words to evoke a sense of loss, such as “left,” which suggests a sudden or unplanned departure.

Stanza 5:

  • Irony: The presence of a Bible that is “left open” and a calendar marked in “one day” highlight the irony of plans and faith abandoned abruptly.
  • Visual Imagery: The imagery of a calendar still marking time visually reinforces the theme of paused lives and the relentless passage of time.

Stanza 6:

  • Concluding Imagery: The final image of “toys in the yard” and a “sandbox turned to rust” uses visual cues to suggest a narrative of sudden interruption, perhaps a quick escape from a troubling situation.
  • Repetition and Rhythm: The repeated structure of each stanza ends on a note that reinforces the desolation and mystery surrounding the abandoned home.

Poetic Devices used in Abandoned Farmhouse

Here is a table highlighting the top 10 poetic devices used in Abandoned Farmhouse:

DeviceExample from the Poem
Imagery“an empty bed about the size of a man”
Metaphor“a boulder broken open”
Personification“the wind tastes of dust”
Simile“like the footsteps of the farmer”
Alliteration“money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves”
Assonance“cold, like the broken heart of the house”
Consonance“still stands, staring”
Symbolism“a bible with a broken back”
Irony“a house that was home”
Repetition“something went wrong, they say”

Abandoned Farmhouse – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of Abandoned Farmhouse? A: The main theme revolves around absence and the passage of time, explored through the remnants of life left behind in an abandoned house.

Q: How does Ted Kooser use objects to tell a story in the poem? A: Kooser uses objects as symbols to infer details about the lives of the inhabitants, such as their size, financial situation, and family dynamics.

Q: What poetic form is Abandoned Farmhouse written in? A: The poem is written in free verse, allowing a more natural flow that mirrors the narrative style of storytelling.

Q: Can Abandoned Farmhouse be considered a narrative poem? A: Yes, although it does not follow a traditional narrative arc with characters in action, it narratively explores the story of its inhabitants through the description of the setting and objects left behind.

Q: What perspective is Abandoned Farmhouse written from? A: The poem is written from a third-person perspective, which provides an observational, almost detective-like view into the lives once lived in the farmhouse.

Q: How does Ted Kooser create a sense of abandonment in the poem? A: Kooser uses descriptive imagery, the setting of a dilapidated farmhouse, and the symbolic presence of unused, left-behind objects to evoke a deep sense of abandonment and loss.

Abandoned Farmhouse Study Guide

Exercise: Identify and list all poetic devices used in the following verse of Abandoned Farmhouse:

Something went wrong, says the empty house in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.


  1. Personification – “says the empty house”
  2. Metaphor – “Stones in the fields say he was not a farmer”
  3. Imagery – “weed-choked yard”
  4. Allusion – “still-sealed jars”

Further exercises to deepen the understanding of poetic devices used in Abandoned Farmhouse could involve identifying themes and tones in different parts of the poem. Here is another exercise for students:

Exercise: Analyze the tone and themes in this verse from Abandoned Farmhouse: “No one lives in the house anymore, and the barn’s gone, too. Few jars left on the shelves, cobwebs thick as curtains.”


  • Tone: Reflective and somber, suggesting loneliness and decay.
  • Themes: Abandonment, passage of time, and the ephemeral nature of human endeavors.

This verse uses visual imagery (“cobwebs thick as curtains”) to emphasize the depth of neglect and abandonment, enhancing both the tone and the thematic content.