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!


Rediscovered Books, this wonderful downtown Boise bookstore, celebrated Independent Bookstore Day this past Saturday. Several Poetry for Strangers poets and I offered an hour-long event—and I asked one of the people present to give a word for a free-write to end our session. “Plagiarize,” she said. Someone in the group looked up the word’s origin—it had roots in theft, piracy, kidnapping! So we all put our heads down and wrote “plagiarize” poems together.

The Stranger: Jeannie

Her Word: Plagiarize

The poem I wrote:

Once a woman
looked too long
at my daughter
and asked, whose
is she? She looks
like mine (now gone).
How I held her
in the tightness
of my vision, fighting
off green dreams
of somebody else
passing mine off
as their own. It is
the fear that peeps
into our windows
at night, unpeeling
us limb by green limb:
worst that can
happen is for them
not to be ours
anymore – it is
love’s most ancient
scroll, how we plagiarize
it from each other:
in anyone who ever
has co-created a thing
or a person. We steep
to the last leaves
in these stories, badmen
and badwomen,
some sweet moppet,

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