Using Photos to Inspire Writing

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Reflect & Write: Where I’m From

Where You're From

Poems and quotations about grandparents, neighborhoods, and origins can help to challenge students to explore their own genealogy in writing.

By Hank Kellner | Updated April 22, 2019

Lisa Logsdon is an English teacher at Allen County-Scottsville High School in Scottsville, KY, where she has written alongside her students for the past eleven years. She has also published work in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children With Special Needs, as well as in The Citizen Times.

Logsdon’s poem, “Where I’m From” explores a subject that’s of great interest to almost everyone.

Written in free verse, the poem echoes the words of Ralph Ellison, who wrote: “Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.”

A Work in Progress

Where I'm From

Where I’m From

I’m from lake effect,
From cotton candy bombardments
And blue crispy pathways.
I am from icicle trees,
Bending their branches to shake hands with the Snow.
(shifting, shimmering silence is loud).

I am from three dogs, four cats, one horse and a chicken.
They all had their tricks when we had the right treats.

I am from the tire swing,
From cider-drenched air, cicada’s tambourines,
And the hot sawdust perfume of grandpa’s garage.
I am from the clothesline windows and berry bush curtains,
From settle down and speak up,
And children are seen but not heard.
I’m from the clean plate club,
Where the amount of my love equals the amount that I eat.

I’m from Parkman, Burton, and Troy,
From launching rocks at the sun like
a fish out of water.
I’m from my father’s greasy hands
That threw softballs with the fireflies.
I’m from my mother’s good faith,
And achievements without payoff.
I’m from a one-armed coat hanger,
from unfinished business.
I’m a work in progress,
Painting on the canvas of my life.

Logsdon’s poem, the accompanying quotation, and the photo will help to challenge students and others who may want to explore their own genealogy in writing. Some may choose to write poems in the first person to describe themselves and their origins. Others may decide to create works of prose. Still others may write dialogues in which they interview a grandparent or great grandparent.

Get Back to Nature

Get Back to NatureThe book Reflect and Write contains several poem-photo combinations based on the theme of nature. For example, “winter’s here,” (p.23), “The Last Day,” (p.44), “Approaching Autumn,” (p.51), “Self-Identification in the Crinkling of Fall,” (p.99) and other appropriate poems offer many opportunities to motivate writers.

After reading and discussing these poems and the accompanying quotations and keywords, writers at many levels may set up four headings titled Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Then they may list appropriate descriptions under each heading. These descriptions may take the form of sense impressions, similes, or metaphors. During group discussions, create a master list of everyone’s responses before encouraging students and others to write poems, essays, or other compositions related to the theme of nature.

As a follow-up activity for students, participants may read their compositions to the to the group, create an anthology, or submit their work for publication at any of the sites listed in the “10 Websites to Help Students Get Published” section of Reflect and Write.

Next: Crossing Bridges

"Where I’m From" 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.