Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

Poems and Photos Help to Inspire Writing – Part 2

By Hank Kellner

This is Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here.

Thanks to the electronic revolution, graphic images surround us. No matter where you turn, a constant bombardment of posters, billboards, photographs, televised images, and more seems to assault your retinas. Seen from one point of view, this flood of images can easily overpower the senses. But from another point of view, the same images can be used to inspire writing both in and out of the classroom.

A student of psychology, astronomy, and philosophy at Massbay College in Wellesley, Rose Scherlis has written “four published articles and one published poem for the Somerville News art section, which is a branch of the Boston Globe.” Below are two other Scherlis poems that appeared in Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing.


Sometimes I Skate

Here’s a powerful example of a poem-photo combination that can inspire unlimited possibilities for writing. In the poem “Skateboarding” colorful images swirl and converge until the world blurs and the skater’s mind becomes receptive to new ideas.

The swirling lines and shapes on the accompanying photo add to the effect.

87 Skateboard Hank Kellner Photo 320

Photo by Hank Kellner


Sometimes I glide, soar, weave

Duck under heavy, mournful branches

Decorated in fragile autumn leaves

Like so many brilliant orange faeries

Until I reach my destination:

An abandoned bridge to read under,

A coffee shop or candy shop,

Or just an empty lot to carve across

Sometimes I skate

As fast as I possibly can

Until the world blurs into a colorful blend

Of distractions, possibilities, ideas.

Until day turns to night,

Sunsets sparkle across the horizon like

Vivid necklaces of pink and red.

Until I lose track of time,

Lose track of myself.

Sometimes I skate.


This photo-poem combination suggests any number of writing possibilities. Some aspiring authors may want to describe one of their own favorite activities. Others may develop compositions in which they discuss a “journey” similar to the one Scherlis describes in her poem. Still others may choose to analyze the poem in terms of its colorful images, structure, and theme.

First published in Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing, “Skateboarding” is accompanied by four keywords and a direct quotation designed to inspire writing. The keywords Motion, Action, Confusion, Forgetting, suggest additional writing possibilities. A direct quotation by Tony Hawk leads to even more writing opportunities for sports minded students. “These sports are just—you go do it, and you’re doing it on your own. You don’t have to answer to anyone.”


An Unknown Dog

Although the dog in this photo was painted on a door, it still conveys the positive characteristics for which dogs are known. Written by Rose Scherlis, the poem “The Dog With No Name” emphasizes these qualities and expresses feelings that all dog lovers experience.

The Dog With No Name

Your furry head peeked out from under the table

So I dropped some fried plantain for you to enjoy.

29Door Dog NYC

Photo by Hank Kellner

You lived on a banana field in Costa Rica

And it was wonderful, but the pesticides

For years underneath your delicate paws

Had twisted them until they grew like poison ivy

Bent in the wrong directions.

Your ear was tattered, a page in a book

With the corner folded down,

Signs of an ongoing war

With a world so menacing

When seen from way down there.

But still your tail wagged

Like a stick in the hand of a drummer,

And your fur shone

Mottled with brown splotches, just puddles of mud

Surrounding your two copper eyes.

Best known as one of the original cast members of the television show Saturday Night Live, comedienne and actress Gilda Radner once wrote: “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”  Together with the poem-photo combination included in this article, this quotation helps to provide inspiration for the creation of any number of written compositions.

But that’s not all. Following class discussion of the photo, poem, quotation, and such keywords as dog, loyalty, friend, and dedication, students may select other images of animals from any source to use as inspiration for their own writing. Then they may find appropriate quotations and keywords to add to their work. Finally, they may compile a class anthology using their combinations of images, poems, keywords, and quotations.


Skateboarding and The Dog With No Name originally appeared in Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner and Elizabeth Guy (Prufrock Press, 2013). See sample pages and buy now at

Read more: Part 3: The Power of Photos and Other Images to Inspire Writing

About the author
A 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. Born in New York City, Kellner now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

FRONT COVER kellner book XKellner is the creator of many photographs and articles that appeared in publications nationwide; the author of extensive reading comprehension materials for a publisher of educational materials, and a former contributing editor to Darkroom Photography magazine.

He is the author of  Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing (Prufrock Press,  2009) and, with Elizabeth Guy,  the co-author of Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing (Prufrock Press, 2013).

Visit his blog at



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This entry was posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 and is filed under *ISSUES, Hank Kellner, March 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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