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!


I went into work with one of my hosts during my January stint teaching in Boston. For several mornings I graded student essays at a tall table in a downtown law firm. It was a wonderful place to work. There was good coffee. There was pale blue sunlight reflected through the windows by the bright snow that first flirted, then fell. Vanessa had a desk at the entrance, and she welcomed people in.

The Stranger: Vanessa

Her Word: Lovely

The poem I wrote:

Certain days the answer
is no, just no, you cannot be
put to good use, your
whole self purposed
like a buffalo. It’s not
in my nature to fight
the guard dogs
so I find another entrance.
I paint my red unwasted
yes across all the doors.
I offer the self up
anyway, these hands
your hands and they
might as well work:
all the more lovely
a reason to pet dogs’ fur,
give children oranges.

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