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, and thank you for continuing to read (and respond to) these poems! Today marks the 5th anniversary of Poetry for Strangers, which I started in January 2013. Here is the 235th stranger & poem:

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: I met her lying on a patch of grass in front of a Vietnamese sandwich café. “It’s kind of prickly,” this stranger noted when my daughter and son and I joined her in the grass. I learned that she has lived her whole life on the Big Island. She pointed toward the hills. I also learned about a deeply generous thing she recently did: enlisting a local Toyota dealer to donate a minivan to a local kids’ soccer coach to hold all the team’s gear. Twenty or so minutes later, I said goodbye to her in the café and asked her to be my next week’s stranger. Rebekah said, “But we’re not strangers anymore. Now we’re family!”

The Stranger: Rebekah

The Word: Generosity

The poem I wrote:

It is the sand
I love, the
being buried,

more than
the lovely salt
floating, the

lucky and unlucky

fish, the
generosity of air

a straw:

I have no
collector’s impulse
and I will take


home, but for
just a few minutes
when the sun

has no teeth
I will collect
on my body

the world:

its faulty shells,
all its warm
secrets, and

for a spell
I get to hold
every one.


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