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Best Poems About Staircases

Updated on August 29, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Poetry and Life Transitions can be symbolized in the spirals of a stairway leading up or down. [Photos on this page, public domain.]
Poetry and Life Transitions can be symbolized in the spirals of a stairway leading up or down. [Photos on this page, public domain.]

The author's winding stair symbolizes the twisting and turning path of life upon which the verses of experience gather.

The Staircase as Subject

The staircase has been the subject of poems for centuries, some mystic, some mundane. Titles include The Winding Stair by William Butler Yeats, which is actually a collection of verses.

The author's winding stair symbolizes the twisting and turning path of life upon which the verses of experience gather. Stairway to Heaven may be found at the other end of a literary continuum, one hosting popular well-known rock songs.

A staircase can illicit thoughts and emotions of traveling up and traveling down - to heaven or to hell, into a scary attic or basement laboratory, or even into the surreal at the end of the staircase in the sky of a science fiction story.

Staircase Imagery

Staircases are at least symbols for rites of passage from one phase of experience into another. This is represented such notions as the "ladder of success" toward the CEO' s position in a major corporation or by "Jacobs' Ladder" via which angels fly up and down to serve mankind in some faiths.

One poem about a particular staircase was written by the author X. J. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was born in 1929 and upon becoming an adult, added the "X" to his name so as not to be confused with Joseph P. Kennedy, JFK's politically entrenched father.

Mr. X.J. Kennedy has written a multitude of literature, including books for adults and children, and poetry. He is also an editor and creator of anthologies of stories and verse.

In one of these books, X.J. collected adult light verse in the entitled Peeping Tom's Cabin. The title is a play on words of the Cincinnati-an Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which helped spur abolitionist activity and the end of slavery in the USA. One of my favorite passages from Peeping Tom's Cabin is this:

Once upon a midnight dreary

Blue and lonesome, missed my dearie.

Would I find her? Any hope?

Quoth the raven six times, "Nope."

Another favorite is this poem, one of his selected "Sinister Limericks" from the Peeping book:

Wailed an earnest young monk of Duluth

"Where O where is the ultimate truth?"

All at once from above

Dropped the dump of a dove-

Prompt reply, if a little uncouth.

XJ Kennedy enjoys poking fun at and roasting anyone, everyone, and everything. This includes staircases and their passengers. Cubism also has not been spared by XJ Kennedy, especially in regard to staircases.

Nude Descending a Staircase #2, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Inspired by photo motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge. Artist, Marcel Duchamp.
Nude Descending a Staircase #2, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Inspired by photo motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge. Artist, Marcel Duchamp.

The artist Marcel Duchamp painted at least two Cubism-inspired paintings of overlapping nude human figures walking down a staircase in a manner in which both the progression and each step taken could be seen at once. These paintings are named. Nude Descending a Staircase Number 1 and Number 2.

One of these versions, Number 2, was displayed in a well known gallery in 1912 and when the viewing public figured out it was a nude woman, shock abounded and the display was removed. There was even greater general sense of shock at the artistic style, of which one art critic in New York crudely stated that it looked like an explosion in a shingle factory.

In the 21st century, however, the famous image was so well accepted as to be turned into a computer video game avatar. XJ Kennedy decided to have fun with the image and composed a poem called Nude Descending a Staircase.

Musical Poetry and Stairs

A famous apartment staircase inspired the musical poem, Me and My Shadow. It was popularized in the early 20th Century by Ted Lewis from Circleville, Ohio and his Orchestra.

Nude Descending a Staircase; © X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,

A gold of lemon, root and rind,

She sifts in sunlight down the stairs

With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

.

We spy beneath the banister

A constant thresh of thigh on thigh--

Her lips imprint the swinging air

That parts to let her parts go by.

.

One-woman waterall, she wears

Her slow descent like a long cape

And pausing, on the final stair

Collects her motions into shape.


XJ suggests that all her overlapping images combine into one in a waterfall of motion and this is so. It also reminds me of a Slinky toy gathering all of its coils at the bottom of a staircase after flowing downward step by step.

Me and My Shadow: Ted Lewis

Halfway up the stairs

Isn't up

And it isn't down.

It isn't in the nursery,

It isn't in town.

And all sorts of funny thoughts

Run round my head.

It isn't really

Anywhere!

It's somewhere else

Instead!

— A.A. Milne
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The lonely staircase.Ted Lewis
The lonely staircase.
The lonely staircase.
Ted Lewis
Ted Lewis | Source

On stage, he would often dance up a spotlighted staircase like one in a lonely apartment building. Lewis would present this tune and complete it by walking up the lonely staircase lighted by a single light bulb in the shadows of the night streets.

Words by Billy Rose, Music by Al Jolson and Dave Dreyer

Me and my shadow, strolling down the avenue,

Me and my shadow, not a soul to tell our troubles too.

And when it's twelve o'clock,

We climb the stair,

We never knock,

For nobody's there -

Just me and my shadow, all alone and feeling blue.

The staircase has been the subject of a number of poems, many of them song lyrics as well. This application has led to the development of various artistic arrangements, sometimes combining song and the spoken word.

Artists involved have included poets, painters, and puppets; singers, dancers. rock musicians and rappers. Please enjoy the video presentations below.

A.A. Milne's Halfway Down the Stairs by The Muppets.

Source

Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven, By Jimmy Page

Partial Lyrics

There's a lady who's sure

All that glitters is gold

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows

If the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

...Your stairway lies on the whisperin' wind...

Stairway To Heaven

There's a lady who's sure, All that glitters is gold, And she's buying a stairway to heaven...
There's a lady who's sure, All that glitters is gold, And she's buying a stairway to heaven... | Source

Stairway to Heaven, Rodrigo y Gabriela; Spanish Guitar

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Emilea Andrews profile image

      Emilea Andrews 

      14 months ago from UK

      great poem and references, i wish i could write like this

    • profile image

      timonweller 

      7 years ago

      Awesome hub and really nice poems.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 

      7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Very imaginative hub! I hadn't realised there are so many poems and songs about staircases.

      The photos add to the hub.

    • Moulik Mistry profile image

      Moulik Mistry 

      8 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

      Wonderful hub - loved it...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi Corina - I really enjoyed writing this Hub. The patterns in staircases, poetry meter, and mathematics are enchanting and intertwined. :) Thanks for reading and making a comment.

    • profile image

      Corina Cook 

      9 years ago

      This is such a well written hub! Thank you for keeping things literary.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you Rapidwriter. Many people are writing. It is good.

    • Rapidwriter profile image

      Rapidwriter 

      10 years ago from UK

      Great Hub, Patty. Poetry's in the air this morning.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much steph. Now If I could get little froggy to dance the stairs, I'd be flipping for joy!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Patty, you totally amaze me! How can anyone else tie Kermit the Frog and Led Zeppelin in the same hub together!? Yet, you do it seamlessly! Congrats. I am in awe.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I think these videos are great. I remember seeing The Mills Brothers in old pcitures dansing up and down stair cases as well. In a really old one, that dances up and down from table tops with their sister! I don't know how they jumped from high staircases down to the stage and fell immedately into perfect splits without injuries!

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 

      10 years ago from United States

      Gotta love Kermit the Frog!!!

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