Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Storms and Las Vegas

             Stormy Weather

           Cynthia Staples' poem "Summer Storms" appeared in Dead Mule of Southern Literature. We've paired it with a photo and reproduced it here to illustrate, once again, how powerful a photo-poem combination can be when it comes to inspiring writing.
           To see more of  Cynthia's photos and inspirational comments, visit her interesting and exciting blog at Other work by Cynthia has appeared  in African Voices, Creativity Portal, and the Seattle Times.   

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 would stop
Leaving silence in the air.
Darkness would part for the sun. Birds sang.

All that remained of the storm
Was puddles and leaves strewn across
The front porch. We’d step outside
Into a golden light as though
God had scrubbed the world clean
Just for us.

We would play until sun set
And lightning bugs came out
To dance with the stars.

And Then There's, uh, Las Vegas

Las Vegas
O Las Vegas, you tawdry queen in old sequins and greasy spangles,
A boiling cauldron of iniquity.
A devil’s den of sin and vice.
Vegas, that dark electric empire.
That dream within a dream.
A thousand white candles of hope burning and singing to that old devil moon.
Uniquely American, the beauty of Las Vegas-
The swing and swank of neon, fast cars, and hot sex.
Eternal promise, hope and hype-
O glittering golden dream.
                                                                                                     Molly Anderson-Childers' "Las Vegas" seduces us in a voice that's different from that of Staples' "Summer Storms." Rich in imagery, it speaks of "sin and vice," of "greasy spangles," of "hope and hype."
        Although this photo-poem combination wouldn't be appropriate for younger students, it would certainly inspire upper level students and adults.
      What's more, you could easily use the storm photo or the Vegas photo without the accompanying poems to inspire writing.
      Thanks to Molly Anderson-Childers for "Las Vegas." Molly is a freelance writer, photographer, artist, and creativity consultant. You can see more of her work at creativity-portal, ediblesanjuanmountains,, and
Call for Poetry
           I'd been teaching  for just a few years when Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle was published back in the 1960s. Consisting of a collection of poems accompanied by photos, Reflections became a favorite not only with the general public, but also with teachers of English. As I recall, it went through many editions before going out of print.
          What a great idea, I thought at the time. Now, more than forty years later, I still feel the same way. That's why I've decided to create another poetry-photo combination. But this time, instead of using poetry by well-known poets, I'd like to use poems by students, their teachers, and other adults.
         If you're interested in learning more about this exciting project, please contact me at hankpix(at)yahoo(dot)com. Finally, if you don't have photos, we can provide them..
Buy My Book  
Hank Kellner is the author of Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing. Published by Cottonwood Press, Write What You See includes a supplementary CD with photos. Available at the publisher, at bookstores and on the Internet at Ask your school or local librarian to order it.                                                            Here's what Darien Public Library teen volunteer Katie Farren wrote about Write What You See. "Do you ever have trouble writing stories for your English class or on your own? Well Write What You See is packed with 99 intriguing photos, writing prompts, and key words that will surely motivate you to write stories that will blow people away. The ideas and stories these pictures can help you come up with are endless. You'll never have trouble writing again!"       

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