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"Deserted Farm" by Mark Vinz: Background and Analysis

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Mark Vinz

Mark Vinz

Mark Vinz: "Deserted Farm"

"Deserted Farm" is a short free verse poem which focuses on a ruined farm and makes a stark contrast between the fortunes of the former resident family and the growth of flowers, which hold hope for the future.

Mark Vinz creates a powerful atmosphere in this well-observed poem, using imagery and poetical device to highlight the theme of change, both social and environmental.

With astute use of figurative language, he combines simile and sensitivity, personification and perception, and the end result is a poem that is beautifully balanced: ' . . . my definition of what a poem is comes down to this special way of seeing.'

So the poem shifts from the initial observance of a missing barn, to the visual idea of a remaining 'beast' and on to the house that comes alive in a kind of religious agony, time weighing heavy on the timbers. Finally, hope is growing in the form of lilac flowers, reaching up to the sun.

"Deserted Farm"

Where the barn stood

the empty milking stalls rise up

like the skeleton of an ancient sea beast,

exiled forever on shores of prairie.

Decaying timber moans softly in twilight;

the house collapses like a broken prayer.

Tomorrow the heavy lilac blossoms will open,

higher than the roofbeams, reeling in wind.

Analysis of "Deserted Farm"

"Deserted Farm" is a poem of eight lines, split equally into two stanzas. As a free verse poem, it has no set rhyme scheme or meter but it does have mixed iambic and anapaest meter in certain lines:

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the empty milking stalls rise up (iambic tetrameter)

the house collapses like a broken prayer (iambic + anapaest)

Note the use of enjambment too which tends to let the line without punctuation flow on into the following line, increasing the pace for the reader and maintaining the sense. This happens in the opening two lines.

End line punctuation then plays a minor role in controlling the speed and as there is no rhyme to tie the poem together, the whole creation seems loose and uncertain.

The internal rhyme provides some support. Note the varied assonance in the second stanza: moans/broken/Tomorrow/blossoms/roofbeams.


To create a feeling of painful loss over time and some sorrow the narrative contains words such as: stood, empty, skeleton, ancient, exiled, forever, decaying, moans, collapses, broken.

Juxtaposed against this heavy, solemn language, is that of small hope: Tomorrow, open, higher, reeling.


There is strong imagery in this poem, the use of which helps create pictures in the reader's mind, enhancing the experience of meaning. What about those bones of an ancient sea beast? Made of metal or wood or both, they work on the mind as the dry prairie turns into a tidal sea and the barn perhaps is now mere driftwood?

The house collapsing like a broken prayer is also powerful. Again, what is non-material, the prayer, is now transformed into the physical—timbers and planks. The lines combine to produce these pictures that can bring deeper understanding.

Sadness Leavened by Hope

Although the overall mood or tone of the poem is rather sad and melancholic, there is a note of positive hope at the end, which offsets the idea of things being lost forever.

The obvious relation of skeleton to death and destruction can have a strong impact on the reader. What were once spaces for healthy cows are now empty and devoid of life. Where fresh milk once flowed all is dry and deserted; nothing but metal or wooden frames exist. The narrator sees a dead sea beast, not milking cows.

And the personified house is in pain, having been the busy family HQ, where a family, perhaps god-fearing people, were in need of help as the looming disaster approached. It is a scene of grievance and desperation. All that hard work, and all the dreams tied to the farm have been dashed.

Nature however doesn't really give a fig about human pain and endeavor. It simply carries on. Out of the ruins come flowers, lilacs, growing strong as the sun beats down and the wind stirs.

These flowers are symbols of hope without a doubt—they're reaching up out of the ashes so to speak, and will perhaps one day see the return of a young farming family, re-builders of the future.

© 2017 Andrew Spacey

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