Best Poems About Staircases
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Me and My Shadow: Ted Lewis
Halfway up the stairs
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
It's somewhere else
Instead!— A.A. Milne
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.
Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven, By Jimmy Page
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
Stairway to Heaven, Rodrigo y Gabriela; Spanish Guitar
© 2008 Patty Inglish MS