Using Photos to Inspire Writing

Nature in all its forms provides unlimited opportunities for class discussion leading to the creation of poetry or prose. After all, who hasn’t been surprised by a sudden change in temperature? Or been enchanted by the sight of snowflakes floating toward the ground on a winter day? And who hasn’t experienced delight at the appearance of the first signs of spring?


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Sometimes, however, nature creates storms, tornados, hurricanes, and even tsunamis. In her poem, “Summer Storms,” Cynthia Staple recalls a childhood storm that gave way to a “golden light.” A writer and photographer living in Somerville, Massachusetts, Staples shares her creative musings on her blog and on Creativity Portal.

Deafening Noise and Blinding Light

Summer Storms

Summer Storms
I miss summer storms,
Deafening noise, blinding light.
You know — the ones with rolling thunder,
Trailing white lightning in their wake,
Sheets of rain falling like milk from the sky.

We were trembling children.
As we peered past drawn curtains,
The storm seemed unending.

But then poof! Like magic it stopped,
Leaving silence in the air.
Darkness parted for the sun. Birds sang.

All that remained
Were puddles and leaves strewn across
The front porch. We stepped outside
Into a golden light as though
God had scrubbed the world clean
Just for us.

We played until sunset
And lightning bugs came out
To dance with the stars.

Rose Kennedy once wrote, “Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?” Together with the “Summer Storms” and its accompanying photo, this quotation along with such keywords as power, lightning, and relief, will motivate students and other writers to describe their own experiences with either the positive or negative aspects of nature.

Flower Power

During the summer of 2008 Laura Pastuszek taught English in South Korea. She is currently an adjunct professor at Towson University where she teaches a course titled “Writing and Communications for Teachers.” In her nature-related poem “Continuity,” a flower speaks as if it were human while the poet identifies with it and uses its qualities to express appreciation for her place in the world around her. The accompanying photo enhances the piece.

Continuity

Continuity

I am full of life
as my presence fills the air with
sweetness.
Others delight in my beauty
and I am grateful for the
branches that undergird me.
For without them
I would not be
A place of refuge
For others to know
and feel welcomed to
create new life
placing an imprint of the process
on my safe and supple petals.

Class discussion based on this poem-photo combination can help students think of the elements of nature they might compare themselves to. Then, using personification, some students may choose to write poems in the same style as “Continuity.” Others may choose to create prose that reflects their relationship with or understanding of nature. Still others may find inspiration in the words of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier: “The continuity of life is never broken; the river flows onward and is lost to oursight.” •

Next: Where You're From

"Summer Storms" and "Continuity" originally appeared in Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner and Elizabeth Guy (Prufrock Press, 2013). Photos by the author.

Write What You See by Hank Kellner

This feature is basedon Hank Kellner's Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing.


Reflect and Write with Hank Kellner

Metaphors Inspire Writing
Humor Inspires Writing
Rap as Poetry
Crossing Bridges
Where You're From
Nature's Dynamic Forms
Isolation and Education
The Power of the Visual
Black and White Images
Inspiration in Monet Paintings
Graphic Images Surround Us
People Respond to Images


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About Hank Kellner

Hank KellnerA veteran of the Korean War, Hank Kellner is a retired educator who has served as an English Department chairperson at the high school level and an adjunct Associate Professor of English at the community college level. More