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!


Hello friends,

While in Austin this week, I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the poetry class of Thomas Whitbread, whose latest book, The Structures Minds Erect, I am reading now. At the end of class I asked him for a word.

The Stranger: Tom

His word: Gangrene (preferably used as a present participle)

The poem I wrote:

If you say to a great ape: every time
you explain yourself or defend

your life in words,
someone will knock you off
your tree and you will fall

on your bottom in the dirt –

say this and the answer will be: Well, so.
So we will keep writing
ourselves out, keep talking too much, keep

constellating ourselves
in the sounds we learned
before being born.

This is the truth
and why we will keep falling from trees,

gangrening as we go.


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