If you want to punch your audience in the faceĀ then you have to learn the basics of poetry. Before you learn the basics of poetry, you have to have a framework to work from, and before you getĀ that…well, you gotta actually sit down and put something on paper. Today, I’m going to go into more detail about that last part, namely, the art of the gateway line.


Polaroid Stories

This is mostly going to be capitalizing on your memories since most memories exist because of the emotions that surround them. Note that there isn’t a wrong way to do this. The goal is to get a list of sentences that concisely describe some of your memories.

This is just to get you started:

1) Think chronologically.
This is how my brain works so this came more naturally to me. I began by thinking through the earliest memories I had from childhood, and asked ‘okay, what was I doing that was different (interesting) from the other kids?’

2) Think like Google.
This is how my wife’s brain works. She would start with an idea or memory, and then that would cause a chain reaction of thought that would take her to a variety of different ideas or memories. Asking the same question of ‘what is interesting?’ here, could yield the same results.



Opening Your World

To me, poetry is a way of putting things. It’s picking out the nouns of life, and drawing prismatic metaphors. A gateway line is an inspirational statement to that end. It might not make sense to anyone but you (which is okay – you still have the rest of the poem to explain things).

My friends all played outside of fences, but I preferred the playground.
When all you want is clarity silence is as subtle as a siren.
When it comes to X, nothing is more creative than the human heart.
That coffee shop broke my window.
I can still see my second date tapping on a chess board.
The most beautiful moment as a missionary is when you find yourself obsolete.
I want to be a man that heaven approves of.
Uganda tattooed my wrist with ‘do not keep it.’

Photo: Mazzali - (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo: Mazzali – (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Of Ideas

The goal is to lead yourself to something you can build from. Whether the line comes from memory or out of life, the things we murmur “good” over are the things we should write down (especially when equipped with a smartphone).

Writing something worth reading is often not a question of topic, but of commitment.