Poetry for Strangers is about 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 single 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: Humble

June 19, 2013, 9:34 am

Over a weekend in Stanley, Idaho (pop. 63) – the home of the Sawtooth Relay and also a wonderful place to write – I got into conversation with a woman who had spent two winters there.

The Stranger: Basya more »

The word: Dogma

June 12, 2013, 10:22 am

In Sonoma, where all of the vineyards look like something out of a “Much Ado About Nothing” set, we stopped by a winery called Chateau St. Jean. Around us stretched endless gardens and the thought of leaving them felt like an expulsion. It was morning, and my friend and I stayed a long time, sampling wines and talking with Kevin, who worked there.

The Stranger: Kevin

His Word: Dogma

The poem I wrote:

There will always be roads
whose endings plunge
into slate and graphite,

and roads that bloom open
like a perfect vine of grapes.

But pause: we are foolish
in pretending that we choose
just one road at a time

when (closed/open) are two
earth-poles that we have known
always – for life is a series

of wombs and we are always
being expelled from one
or another: each with its own

striated rhythm, its costume-
shops filled floor-to-ceiling
with new dogmas – and don’t

these roads knot into exquisite
reunions at each crossing: a life
of adventure, a life of safety –

like wine and cheese,
they beg for each other.


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



The word: Unrequited

June 5, 2013, 9:55 am

Even though I am no gardener, I decided to buy myself a striped gardening hat from a shop at the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace. The woman working the checkout told me that she is requiring her book club to read poetry – and not only that – she has rented a karaoke machine for each member to perform a poem. Short of moving to San Francisco to join her book club, the next sensible thing was to write her a poem.

The Stranger: Mary Lee more »

The word: Cannibalize

May 29, 2013, 9:33 am

I interviewed Dwayne Blackaller, Educational Director and Associate Artist at Boise Contemporary Theater, for an upcoming article in Greenbelt Magazine – and I found him so compelling, the conversation so crackling with interesting digressions, that I was curious to know what single word he would choose for a poem –

The Stranger: Dwayne more »

The word: Atlatl

May 22, 2013, 10:32 am

While having tea in the backyard with my friend-with-twin-sons, I learned that her twins’ newest pastime is to make atlatls out of twigs and duct tape. Two neighborhood friends, sisters aged 10 and 8, were also visiting. I asked the sisters for a word.

The Strangers: Lucy and Ruby more »

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