33 pages 1 hour read

Ted Kooser

Abandoned Farmhouse

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1980

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Literary Devices

Form and Meter

“Abandoned Farmhouse” is written in unrhymed free verse organized into three stanzas of eight lines each. Though it doesn’t follow a set formal pattern, most of its lines include five stressed syllables, making it sound like the natural iambic pentameter of conversational speech. It is an accessible and familiar rhythm presented in an orderly form.

The surprises in the poem’s form occur within the lines. The syntax of some of the sentences is eccentric, falling into a pattern not unlike those of fairy tales or nursery rhymes. “He was a big man, says the size of his shoes” (Line 1) and “A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall” (Line 9). The pattern becomes an effective structuring mechanism as it repeats throughout the poem.

Enjambment presents more significant challenges. Splitting phrases further breaks syntax and creates a pause. “He was a big man, says the size of his shoes / on a pile of broken dishes by the house” (Lines 1-2) and “A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall / papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves” (Lines 9-10). All three stanzas begin with this surprise break.