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!


This week I walked inside Idaho’s state capitol building. My predominant feeling was anger and a grudging warrior’s patience, but there was also a slight birdsong of curiosity: I wanted to witness an ordinary morning in the capitol building of my state who had elected for president this man who so hates women.

Mostly it was what you’d expect: committees on finance, presentations about why this school or that program needs funding for fiscal year 2018. Where I felt hope was in the basement: Boise State University had set up tables to show the work of different departments. I landed at the table of GIMM, the Gaming, Interactive Media and Mobile Technology program.

First they put goggles on me for my first virtual reality experience. Through the goggles, my hands turned skeletal and neon green and yellow, and I entered a land of gray blocks that I could pick up, throw, and knock over. Then the goggles came off and I faced Dean and Gabe, students in the program who, with no prior app-building experience, had taken large amounts of data and put it to practical use by building impressive tracking apps. These guys were kind, they were smart, they were excited about their work. As I listened to their possibilities and learned about their projects, I felt the antidote to the anxiety in the air: a progress, learning, a push forward into new territory.

The Strangers: Dean and Gabe

The Word: Extravagant

The poem I wrote:

Since I’ve fallen
out of study
I’ve come into
archipelagos; how
extravagant for
freedom to carry
the scent of salt.

Some days I wish
never to climb
again. Rather sit
among ten thousand
leaves believing

the williwaw
has come
for the last time

there is nothing left
to do except
stir honey
into each year.

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