Poetry for Strangers is about finding inspiration in community, in people, in the chance encounters of everyday life. PFS suggests that every person can be a “muse” of a poem. Every week of this year I will ask a stranger for a single word and then write a poem inspired by the word. I invite you to do the same.

Share your poem on this week’s word!


Happy new year!

I am starting a new writing project called Poetry for Strangers and here is how it works:

Each week I will ask a stranger for a single word, and then I will use that word as the inspiration for a poem. I will share that poem with you and invite you to write a poem on that same word and post it on the Poetry for Strangers blog. By the year’s end, we will have created a body of work together, borrowing inspiration from over fifty strangers. Here is the first one:

The Stranger: Rich, a pharmacist in Boise, ID, was smiling and wearing an exuberant purple shirt when I picked up my husband’s prescription. I asked him for a word, and he said… 

The Word: Brewery

The poem I wrote:

You can take it in pill form, sure, but why not
in a glass filled to the top and foaming
like the ocean foams at the end of a long day?

When low tide hits, you had better hit
a brewery. Nothing haunts a place that churns
out dreams in wheat and barley, where the only ghost

is the lavender ghost of yeast: the memory that first
it was monks who sang psalms to their beer.

May you enter singing, enter foaming, enter
to raise your glass and forget.

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

If you have been receiving The Tuesday Writer, I will keep you on the list for Poetry for Strangers unless you ask otherwise. And for anyone else who wishes to participate, get on the list by contacting me through this website. 

Happy years to you all! Thanks for reading.


The Poems

Martin Kevorkian:
In the early days of yeast genetics
the brewery held the secrets
to stoke the study of cells
and their unruly proliferation.
Yeast is life.  Yeast is cancer.
Unregulated growth that fills the vat,
that fills the cup, that gives it heft,
that warms the toast we offer up
To your health

Sallie Sharp:



Tours and tastings. Grain in, oblivion out.

The tour guide talks the lingo: mash, yeast, ferment, hops.

“But I already know how to hop,” the youngest in the group complains, her legs tired from walking at a grown- pace on concrete, kept at 50 degrees for fermentation.

Gold, amber, dunkel, oatmeal, black, Flanders red, brown.

At dunkel, children giggle.

An hour of cold walking for the prize.

Taps line the tasting room perimeter — no limit and no final call.

The eager gulp, plastic cups refilled around the room. The tolerant sip and glance at the time.

The youngest sees her father turning.

The morning after he will blame the gold or the amber or the brown.  Her mother will blame the children.

The children had wanted to see the new Disney movie. No one said. Except for the youngest with amber hair. She still hopped.


Lane Ward:


Throw a Stone
Climb the Pyramid
Raft the Deschutes
Catch a Sockeye
Marvel at Grand Teton
What’s a Dogfish Head?
Set Anchor in San Fran
Drink under Big Sky
Shake hands with Mac and Jack

Wherever the place, whatever the name
A trip to the brewery ends up just the same
Have a cold pint and soak up the cheer
All this is done by drinking good beer


James Stead:


Breweries are nice
If only they brewed with rice
Then I’d be enticed


Susan Gayle Todd:


I think it was called Waterloo.

Named for a nickname
of the city where it stood
at Fourth and Guadalupe
for not so many years.

Its looming gleamy vessels upstaged dingy walls
under a high ceiling in an old warehouse and took no thought of Saturday nights’ ungainly high-heeled fresh-wo-men stumbling in their slutty dresses hungry for greasy nachos
nor smug snug-jeaned youths slinking
from Oil Can Harry’s across the way
and through the solid doors
of that unquestionably macho brewery.

No ghost of it now,
replaced by shops and condos.


Alex Scammon:


My malady is somewhat new to me:
I hate the mere sight of a brewery
The last time I went there
I lost all my chest hair
And my gums got decidedly chewery.


Heidi Kraay:


“Collecting Sad Tales like a Mighty Brawl”


A brewery tells sad tales
like her hair I cut
Nobody liked it
and I’m no professional
Still, she asked
Still, she didn’t have to change her mind so fast
Still when I cut those streaks in one side
like she wanted
and left the rest long
like she wanted
I felt proud despite her wasted disappointment look
and her clucking friends’ soothing coos
Still, when a tear spat out my eye
I hid it by smacking my face

A brewery tells hard yeast
Stinking homeless seats, where we sat side by side
He told me my problems and I wanted him to speak forever
Then we spoke it under the sheets. Then I drifted on.
Oh I wanted to love you, to give you all of me
Now I’m better off, but all that work
All that leaning in to buy you little presents
like a coin jar with vintage jokes plastered on
like poetry and all that time organizing your life
I did it for love more than money
and that’s how bitterness grew
When hot water dropped down the drain with your white mess
and I hugged your fat rubbery spandex skin in the shower
I wanted to stay there forever. You wanted HER back.

A brewery tells the night to move on
past class
into a dive with a chipped dirty glass
They think they’re so smug and deserve all that praise
Those poets at the bar
But they’re just drunks getting by on cleverness
Get over it and onto something true
like applesauce, like charity
like a proverb that tells a story
like a screenplay, like life
Then live it like I’m adding yeast to the pot
as I’m brewing my pants for lunch
The foolish stuff means the most
but do it with a mighty brawl


Byron Boone:


“three cheers”

brewery shmewery
there’s not enough
unquenched tomfoolery

we slake our thirst
to do our work
by artificial light

let’s throw these chains
let’s eat our kill
and let’s be sober in our part

for if we wait
for liquid strength
life will be fun but have no heart

we must drink to cheer
these mighty wins
these things to date undone

for were it not for you
you mighty soul
these rewards would not be won

so three cheers
my friends
for our fellows returning from the fight

but no cheers to drown
our gnawing ache
and none for that which we might


Ellen Stead:


Beer can be brewed, and tea too.
Storms and trouble brew, that’s true, 
 But I see this:
9 Witches in a row in front of 9 boiling, roiling, steaming kettles.
Let’s look at them:
Sparkling eyes, smiling mouths, abundantly shiny hair.
Are they dark and evil?
No, no!  They are daughters of nature brewing healthy,
 healing potions of lavender, sage and thyme.
Good smelling, lovely things.
For well being.


Gary Cooke:


“The Brewmaster”

Beer, they thought, was made by gods.
A drink for history, for courage and healing,
amber where staring eyes could find
future and past, and lies turned into myth.
Stars lit the night, and leaping flame,
sparks like fireflies shimmering,
shadows dancing on the faces of men.

Thunder might roll down ancient paths
and rivers carry mud to the sea,
yet still the drinking and the talk,
hands flying like birds above the fire.
Ah the passions, the wild hearts
in shouts or song, beer spilling into the sand.

But somewhere, the patient brewer
Sat, his magic forming in a crock,
grains and water, the alchemy of time,
counting coins behind his eyes,
a marketplace of parched tongues,
all waiting for dark, for the stories
that would hold some men
like the jaws of wolves, while others
lolled, their minds like clouds,
drifting, changing shapes, drunk
as dreams, and as soon forgotten.


Kimberly Horne:


Better than a stewery

Warehouse of lost
sleep teeth ground to nubs
the whirr of stainless steel
mouse wheels skeins of
yanked hair

If we’re talking vats
of potatoes and chuck roast
rather than pent up angst

well that’s different


Rita Rodriquez:


On the corner of Bannock and Tenth,
they say, a brewery’s coming in,
where the guys once lifted dumbbells
lying on their backs,  standing, or sitting down.

A patented Jones smith with/bar
they claimed did it all.
The guys sweated, swore, competed
could have won Ironmen titles.

One lost a girl friend, another a wife
to guys soft as the Pillsbury doughboy.
I’m giving it up, they said.
I’d rather drink.

When’s the brewery coming in?