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!


At the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Boise, I met Alane, a prolific author of books for young adults and the daughter of one of my dearest friends, Gloria, also a brilliant author. I’ve long been interested in the ways that creative people get obsessed (haunted?) with an idea or memory that comes out again and again in their art. Alane and I talked about creative obsession—I marveled at the depth and expanse of her research—and the morning after we spoke, this poem emerged.

The Stranger: Alane

The Word: Prodigious

The poem I wrote:

I auctioned your memory
last night. You, for sale, among
so many prodigious ghosts.
For years I had nursed you,
and you breathed and bled
from my pen. Each morning
I bore you, each evening I conceived you
again. You died every afternoon.
The catalogue called you treasure,
claimed you as a gold-baby.
Wealthy souls cried bids for you,
and your price drove up and up.
Midnight brought coffee,
dawn fireworks. It seems
someone had won you.
A young woman, a writer,
was in need of a story,
and by God did you sell.

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