How to Write a Stair Poem

A stair poem is similar to a shape poem, in that the visual representation of the words resembles stair steps. The topic, however, doesn't need to be about stairs but about anything you want -- the more tangible the better.

Pick a Topic
Thinking of a topic is the first step.

A stair poem is brief so each word needs to pack a punch. Choose your topic carefully! Ideally, it will be a noun, such as "pizza" or a gerund, such as "running." This should be something that you can easily describe, something that brings up familiar smells, sounds or emotions. It could be a place, a time or an object. This word or very short phrase (e.g. "Christmas morning") is written on the first line. Each successive line is written up one line from the previous, to the right, forming the shape of a stair.

Write Three Adjectives
Food items are easy, tangible topics to describe.

The next line will consist of three adjectives that succinctly describe your topic. It is best to choose three different aspects of the topic. For example, if your topic is "pizza," don't just list three possible pizza toppings: list three different pizza features, for example, hot, cheesy, delicious.

Describe a Place or Time
A verb is a fun topic to visualize.

Now, move up and to the right again for the third line. This line should describe a place or time related to the topic. If your topic is "running," your third line might say "shady dirt lanes," "down mountain trails" or "through the streets of New York." If your topic is itself a time, such as "Christmas morning," use this line to describe a place, such as "at Grandma's house" and vice versa.

Restate or Summarize Your Topic
Be creative!

The last line should summarize your topic or restate it. It should not be the same as your first line. Here's an example (read from the bottom up): favorite day of the year! at Grandma's house cozy, sparkling, exciting Christmas morning

If pizza were your topic and first line, your last line might say something like "Italian meal" or "Best food ever!" A creative twist on a stair poem about running would be to restate it with another verb such as "flying" or a metaphorical noun such as "freedom."

Though the format is concrete, the poem can be as abstract as you like. Remember to express your own perspective.

  • Teaching Poetry: Yes, You Can!; Sweeney, Jacqueline
About the Author

Katherine Bell splits her time between Western Montana and New Orleans. She is currently working on a PhD, conducting research on the endangered Blackfoot language. She has an Master of Arts in linguistic anthropology from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Florida.

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