Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

The Power of Photos and Other Images to Inspire Writing – Part 3

By Hank Kellner

What do you do when your fingers become icicles, your keyboard freezes, and your cursor refuses to move from its position at the left hand side of your monitor? And how do you respond when your students or members of your writer’s group claim that their brains have turned to stone because “writers block” has overpowered them?

When that happens, some people vacuum their rugs, make fresh pots of coffee, yearn for the class session or workshop to end, bite their fingernails, or distract themselves with hundreds of other diversions.


Look to the Masters

That’s not true for Elizabeth Guy. A storyteller, poet, and the co-editor of Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing, Guy sometimes uses paintings by the masters to trigger ideas for her work.

“I wasn’t born to vacuum rugs,” she reports. “That’s why I use the Internet to find paintings by the masters to give me ideas. Doing so is like dipping into the mother lode of inspiration and writing prompts.”

In the following two poems, Guy used Monet’s paintings,  Impression Sunrise and The Magpie as her inspiration. One can only wonder how the artist would have responded had he known that two of his paintings would become the inspiration for two poems some 140 years after his brushes kissed the canvas.


Impression, sunrise

Short and sweet

Succinct, concise, and pithyMonet Impression Sunrise-1

And yet, and yet

So lingering in the mind

Evocative of mists and lifting fogs

A gradual clarity

Lifting veils of unsubstantial weight

Doubts swept away on ebbing tides

Revealing crystal visions

Destinies defined


Reflections on a Winter Painting

I saw a winter painting and I smiled.

Then once again my brother lived.

Tall and strong, he pulled the sled

When I was just a little child. The Magpie by Monet

Trees black laced against

An orange smear of sunset.

The evening star a diamond in the dusk.

Below, the crunch of snow beneath the runners.

Toes numb in buckled boots.

Frozen misted breath, and mittens caked with ice.

Riding like a princess across a frozen tundra.

Home at last!

Stomping. Laughing, pulling off our coats,

Breathing in the kitchen’s fragrant warmth.

Fingers tingling underneath the tap.

Winter memories of my brother.

Rest in peace my childhood knight,

And angels guard your soul.

Now the rising pearl of moon

Casts its ghostly pale

Upon my withered lawn.

Frost lies everywhere—

Like fairy dust turned cold.

A Bonanza for Teachers

Writers in all walks of life can find inspiration in paintings by the masters, but for teachers those masterpieces are especially valuable. Rich in color, detail, and content, they can help students develop new ideas that will help to overcome their reluctance to write poetry, prose, or non- fiction.


Reflections on a Winter’s Painting 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, reviews, and buy now at (Insert Reflect and Write cover)

Read more:

The Power of Poems and Photos to Inspire Writing (Part 1 in this series)

Poems and Photos Help to Inspire Writing (Part 2 in this series)

Part 4 in this series here


About the author

FRONT COVER kellner book XA 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. Visit his blog at

Kellner 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).



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This entry was posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 and is filed under *ISSUES, April 2013, Hank Kellner. 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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