Founded in 2013, Poetry for Strangers is a project dedicated to finding inspiration in the chance encounters of everyday life. PFS suggests that every person can be the muse of a poem. Each week I ask a stranger for a word and write a poem inspired by the word. I invite you to do the same. 

Share your poem on this week’s word!


The word: Grateful

May 30, 2018, 1:08 pm

This June I will hike the Thames River path with my dad. His ideal distance is 25 miles a day, mine is 5, so we compromised at 15. Because we will sleep and eat at pubs, we’ll carry only our clothes. I found a small backpack and have been hiking with it, but one of the straps came loose. Guy at REI fixed it promptly.

Which brings me to the hike…. PFS is going on 4-week hiatus while I hike the Thames and do some traveling after. No internet and no computer. Poems will start again the first week of July, and if you miss your weekly dose, you can peruse the archives at or read any of my other published poems that you might not have seen.

Thanks for reading! Onto this week’s stranger. xo Elisabeth

The Stranger: Guy

The Word: Grateful

The poem I wrote:

I have learned
from the ancients
about water, fire, wind.
The water upon which
the newborn
sails. The fire,
always kindled
but impossible
to pass on. The wind
to keep us
from arriving.
This learning is the soil
of my body.
Without it
I am just food
for the next cycle.
What is it all for
if not
our young. I will
be grateful to be
your Ancient one day.

The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Fishing

May 23, 2018, 8:50 am

I took my 4-year-old fishing. We had anise-scented fish “marshmallows” for bait and a clamped down barb on our hook in case we caught anything. We were of split hopes: my son wished for a catch, while I wished for a day at the pond. We stayed an hour, caught no fish, and so my wish prevailed. This stranger, Suvad, was at the pond with his rod and looked as if he knew what he was doing. He had caught nothing, which surprised him, for he told us that in the fifteen years he’d been fishing, “I haven’t once bought fish at the store.”

The Stranger: Suvad

The Word: Fishing

The poem I wrote:

“On fishing for reasons”

Like any god
I give my whole
To one man, one woman.


The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Diversity

May 16, 2018, 10:08 am

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Austin with my daughter and realized that I can no longer count how many times we have made this trip together (she was six weeks old our first time). We had a lively conversation with our Lyft driver, Augie, about the many places he lived with his wife and daughter during his military years. “Good to travel with your kids young!” he said to me. “They remember.”

The Stranger: Augie

The Word: Diversity

The poem I wrote:

Traveling all roads,
leaving something
in each yet
belonging to none,
we range the world
in diversity
like a riverwork
of veins, trusting
that all blood
flows to the heart.

The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Dazzling

May 9, 2018, 9:16 am

I went into the Coop wine shop seeking red bubbly. Stephen, who was working, admired my clay necklace: two yellow stars on either side of a rolled-up earth. It is a very beautiful necklace and I told him it was made by a child. We paused for a moment, both effervescing over this fact. “Tell her she is really good,” he said at last.

The Stranger: Stephen

The Word: Dazzling

The poem I wrote:

I dream


{of some
{absurd safety
{as I plunge
{softly down
{through the sea




{drowning, drowning
{in sheets
{of gray,
{dazzling life
{and then its victims




The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Kindness

May 2, 2018, 9:17 am

At the zoo, Canada geese were nesting and did not want to be bothered. Avoiding geese, we made it to the carousel. My babies were the only two in line, holding up their quarters hopefully. Zach let them ride all by themselves.

The Stranger: Zach

The Word: Kindness

The poem I wrote:

In part, for Gulshan

Five oak trees
stand behind
my house:

to think
anyone could own
a tree—

a tree,
its leaves mosaicked
to the sky,

indebted to earth,
a kindness

of belonging:
and what these
five oaks

have is a
woman who loves


The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

« Page 1, 2, 3 ... 7,