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!


In an autumn online class I taught writing to this stranger. I adored her writing voice, its humor and frankness and vulnerability; when I learned that she lived in Boston, she and I hatched plans to meet in an underground bar called Grendel’s Den. We both were late, which cancelled out each of our guilt for lateness, and we spent the afternoon getting to know each other in person—not as student-teacher but as friends.

The Stranger: Leigh Ann 

Her Word: Persnickety

The poem I wrote:

The problem is not
the ending but
what happens after:
those stories
we tell instead of
putting them away
in jars and mugs,
blessed bitterroots
of our lives.
It is a persnickety
habit, how every
time we come back
we open the jars
we smell the roots
even hating
their fragrance,
and we tell the story
over again.

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