How Photographs Inspire Poetry

#writing poetry #photography

Golden grains of love
Golden grains of love

Writing Poetry From Photos: Part Three in a Four Part Series

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” Robert Frost

Chenille field
Chenille field

Photos are real, poetry is metaphorical, esoteric.  Do they go together?

As I walked the rutted rural roads Elderwood, CA one May evening, the slightly humid breeze, chirping birds, rustling hay, and sunset overwhelmed me with a feeling of well-being. Even though I seldom write poetry, once I captured the beauty with my iPhone, my physical exercise ceased to exist as this poem budded. I felt luxuriously happy.

Few walks enjoyed alone warm and cuddly as if the whole world held me in its arms But this one was Like the cowboy, riding the lonely trail lost in thought - a love left behind I smiled, happy to be alive remembering love and feeling content

Can a photo spark a poem? Let’s try it.

The Sweet Breeze in My Life

Few nights invite gentle breezes to tickle my arms with the sweet sense of belonging

But this one did.

Freshly baled hay on the new-mown bed of chenille patterned stubbles,

Imagined pillows, gentle sidewise glances without tangles of splintered meanings.

Few walks enjoyed alone, warm and cuddly as if the whole world held me in its arms

But this one was

Like the cowboy, riding the lonely trail lost in thought – a love left behind,

I smiled, happy to be alive remembering my love and feeling content.

Sunset beauty
Sunset beauty

My pictures might not tell a great story, but they remind me of how I felt. But what about you, can these pictures spark a poem out of you even though you were not there to experience the feelings?

  1. Poetry starts and ends with emotion.
  2. Colors in photos stimulate emotions.
  3. Photos and notes remind the poet of the senses not in the picture, the smell of the hay, the feel of the gentle breeze.
  4. I use Google Docs to store all those sensory notes and pictures until time to publish the poem. What do you use?

 Susan Trestrail wrote this next poem, “Beauty.” For a complete copy of the poem, check out her blog.

Poetry Inspires Photo
Poetry Inspires Photo

Susan found a picture that went with her poem instead of the picture inspiring the poem. It works both ways!

She tells her students,

I have this poem. I have used it in many ways.
To enhance art
on T-Shirts
in Facebook posts.

But, I really like pairing the poem with a photograph.
This photograph is beautiful, but has harsh edges.

The poem fits well on the left side of the image.

The dominant right side lets the image communicate
the poem’s meaning.

I love this piece. Can you make one with one of your poems?

Susan Trestrail
Susan Trestrail

Susan Trestrail holds traveling writers’ workshops to help others produce published works of poetry and literary fiction as well as teaching English and Literature at several colleges and Universities both online and onsite.

She holds a BA in sociology, an MS Ed from Northern Illinois University, and an MA from National University. She also completed an MFA in Creative Writing -Poetry in 2016 at National University.

Check out her blog for more poetry ideas.

If one of our pictures inspired YOUR poem, feel free to use it. All we ask is that put a link to your post in the comment section. If you have a post inspired by a different photo, post a link in our comment section. I check out these links for future posts.

For other ways to use photographs check out:

Please link to your poems that have used photos to inspire YOUR poetry in the comment section.

Please share if you enjoyed this post.

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

11 thoughts on “How Photographs Inspire Poetry”

    1. Thanks, Helen. You are a great photo buff! What do you feel is your most effective post using photographs to either tell a story, write a poem, or participate in a photo challenge?


  1. Excellent! Thanks for featuring my poem, but more importantly thanks for framing this process in such an eloquent fashion. Love it!


  2. “Freshly baled hay”

    Oh, what a flurry of images and memories swarm before me, conjured by those three words. Your poem is a pure delight, Marsha; it takes me back to the hinterland farmlands and the swaying prairies of the Midwest. Majestic shot. What a scene…

    A wonderful topic. Photography has inspired poetry and writing for me for a long time. In many ways, certain kinds of photographs strike me as profoundly poetic and provocative. The two mediums rather converge sometimes. I will often take a book of poems along with me on a shoot to see how it influences the outcome.

    Film also affects photography for me, especially classic film or artistic film shorts. I will sometimes watch a film the night before I take the camera out for a jaunt just to see what kind of results emerge.

    Books and plays are a tremendous inspiration too. Sometimes, I go back to read parts of my favourite books just to get that “feeling” that I want for a particular shoot.

    And photography endlessly provides poetic inspiration. I love the idea of pairing an image with a poem, melding them together to create something anew. I would love to try this sometime. Beautiful post and loved Susan’s poem-photo.

    All the best,



    1. Your poems and pictures treat the senses to the depth of your thought about them. They are truly exquisite. You do not rush through just to produce your next film or poem, and it shows. People love your work. 🙂 Keep it up.


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