poem index

Poems about the Home

Year

2004

The home in poetry can be a mythic, imagined place, the location of childhood memories, or the brick-and-mortar remainder of a broken relationship. It can represent the proverbial "room of one's own," the simple pleasures of eating and gardening, or hold the drudgery of chores.

In the 1965 collection About the House by W. H. Auden, the home becomes an extension of the self. The poems explore both the physical rooms as well as their metaphoric counterparts: the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, basement, and attic, along with the sex, fear, and safety these rooms hold. "Up There" searches the collections of hats and letters in the attic, a room where men never venture, that offers a storage place for women and a hiding place for children. "Down there" travels to the cellar, with its creepy darkness and prehistoric roots. The poem begins:

A cellar underneath the house, though not lived in,
Reminds our warm and windowed quarters upstairs that
Caves water-scooped from limestone were our first dwellings

The home can also represent the relationship of the couple it shelters. In "Living in Sin" by Adrienne Rich, morning not only reveals the dust and grime that must be cleaned up, but exposes the couple themselves. C. P. Cavafy recalls an apartment he once shared with a lover in "The Afternoon Sun," slowly cataloging the remembered furnishings, stopping with the bed, and the unavoidable recognition it provokes of their painful separation. The home itself is somehow bereft and empty when its inhabitants are missing, as in "When You Go Away" by W. S. Merwin and "Home Is So Sad" by Philip Larkin, which begins:

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped in the comfort of the last to go

There are also verses both in praise and in disgrace of domesticity: the ironing, cleaning, and cooking. "What the Living Do" by Marie Howe begins with a clogged sink and the grind of daily frustrations, though it ends with a revelation of gratitude. The easy comfort of a warm home is a frequent theme in the work of Billy Collins, including his poem "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" in which the speaker prefers to imagine the outdoors while safe inside.

For more poems on home and domestic life, both real and imagined, consider the following:

"To Touch with a Smoothing Iron" by Sandra Alcosser
About the House by W. H. Auden
"The Attic" by Marie Howe
"On the Disadvantages of Central Heating" by Amy Clampitt
"Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" by Billy Collins
"Taking in the Wash" by Rita Dove
"What the Living Do" by Marie Howe
"Home Is So Sad" by Philip Larkin
"Ode to Ironing" by Pablo Neruda
"Te Deum" by Charles Reznikoff
"Living in Sin" by Adrienne Rich
"The Cabbage" by Ruth Stone
"This Is Just To Say" by William Carlos Williams
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W. B. Yeats