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!


Summer teaching has ended. I taught two classes—two terrific, lively, wise groups of people. On the final day of an intense 3-week summer writing class with a focus on fairy tales, I asked the writers in my class if they’d give me a collective word. After some debate, a word was summoned and agreed upon.

The Strangers: Harvard Summer 2016 3-week Expo S-25

Their Word: Close

The poem I wrote:

Close the door. Perhaps
something lurks. Perhaps
you want to write about it—
if not we can discuss
something kinder.

We are beasts until.
Lurking at edges, one-eyed,
hungry. Still we have to
make something:
spin gold or wool
or happiness; make a map
through the woods,
to a candy house, asking
where have all
the wolves gone.
A happy ending
goes just one way:
from I don’t trust you
to perhaps I do.
We are beasts until then.

Even then. It’s the way
the world spits out
the same story year after year,
the one about coming
too close to danger: open
then close then open.

We will tell it again.
What things the story gives,
you may keep. Call them
currency if you wish:
you have earned them.

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