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!


Before sharing this week’s stranger, some news: Poetry for Strangers will debut as a book this Friday, November 13! I’ll send more detailed information that day.

I was the lucky one who got to judge a kids’ poetry and pumpkin-decorating contest at an elementary school the Thursday before Halloween. Highlights included an elongated pumpkin made to look like an upstanding football and a pumpkin turned into Cinderella’s carriage (complete with mini-pumpkin wheels.) I loved every one of the poems because I indiscriminately love all poems, just like others might indiscriminately love all wine, all skiing, or all football games. Jessie helps out with the school and invited me to judge.

The Stranger: Jessie 

Her Word: Jovial

The poem I wrote:

Fall is a story of being
lost in the woods: never

knowing which path is ours
because the paths keep

changing. Once there was
snow, once the mudded

sprouts of crocus, the roses
left by the deep paws

of animals. Once
a pumpkin grinning

like a jovial master over all
the sleeping houses.

Now we have just
leaves, bright and indistinct,

and we—travelers,
embedded in the season’s plot—

toil through the maze, knowing

in our scarecrow hearts
that we will be the lucky ones

if we can ever find
our way home.


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