Monday Night Poetry – 2/20/23 – Writing Workshop / Exercise:

Getting to Know Strangers


Pair off in groups of two. Flip a coin. Whoever flips the other person calls. Whoever wins the coin toss picks between odds and evens from the list below. You now each have ten individual items to prompt an interview style back and forth until all twenty items have been covered. Each person should take notes on what the other person says and use those notes as a blue print for a poem that is half a conversation. The coin toss and using notes taken from others impromptu responses will emphasize the unforgettable and unforeseen elements we encounter in our communication with strangers. Good luck!

20 ways to start a conversation with a stranger

1. Gather information

2. Compliment the stranger

3. Bring up a shared topic

4. Introduce yourself

5. Ask open-ended questions

6. Stay up-to-date on current events

7. Offer to help

8. Share an interesting fact

9. Ask for their opinion

10. Ask for lunch advice

11. Comment on a viral video

12. Be straightforward

13. Ask for help

14. Discuss common interests

15. Make an insightful comment

16. Mention a shared trait

17. Ask a question about their background

18. Ask for advice

19. Comment on a shared activity

20. Tell a joke

Taken from: 


“Marius and Cosette were in the dark in regard to each other. They did not speak, they did not bow, they were not acquainted; they saw each other; and, like the stars in the sky separated by millions of leagues, they lived by gazing upon each other.”

— Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”

William Butler Yeats

“If you age with somebody, you go through so many roles – you’re lovers, friends, enemies, colleagues, strangers; you’re brother and sister. That’s what intimacy is, if you’re with your soulmate.”

Cate Blanchett

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

“It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.”

Maya Angelou

“. . .sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?”

“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.”

— Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)

“2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

— Hebrews 13:2 ESV


Being heard, stirred, and perhaps cured by life's many hidden images and the written-spoken word.
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