Strangers' Poems Project

Strangers’ Poems Project is a performative social practice art project that activates the space it occupies (a street corner, a lobby, a cafe-bar) and incites conversation beyond small talk. It is an ambassador for poetry. It is a sidewalk psychiatry booth a la Peanuts’ Lucy.

It is a memory and a source of a keepsake.

The Process

I sit with my typewriter and a sign that invites people to give words to get a poem.

Participants are free to give as many or as few words as they would like.

Follow-up questions are asked.

An original poem is crafted on the spot, as the result of this collaborative process.

Patrons are then free to pay whatever amount they would like to pay for their unique piece of art.

Envelopes and stamps are available if one would like to mail their poem to someone else.

I hope to hand people a piece of themselves, materialized into verse.
It is a process born of empathy, of intuition, of a community of writers, of years of study.
It is a chance encounter with something of the self floating in the ether, plucked from air and placed upon a table.
Ben Bernthal

Improvisational
Poetry

Order a poem by Mail

Custom pieces are typewritten on high-quality paper & mailed, and a digital copy and a recording of the writer reading it for you can be emailed wherever you specify.

When you request a poem from me in person, it is done on the spot and you decide what to pay. When you order a poem online, I ask for a minimum donation of $20 for my time, the supplies, and the extra effort of mailing the work. Once you receive the poem, you can decide if you would like to send an additional tip.

I will do my best to mail the poem to you within two weeks. If you’d like your poem by a specific date, I’ll do my best to work with you.

Thank you!
Ben Bernthal

Please include a list of 4-10 words to draw from or tell me a story in a short paragraph. If you’d like to include a photo or two, feel free to email those to strangerspoemsproject@gmail.com.

About Ben

Ben Bernthal is a traveling poet and teacher. He sets up his outdoor office wherever he is visiting or living at the time. He has written for years in Indianapolis, IN, Asheville, NC, and more recently in Providence, RI and Boston, MA. Ben studied poetry under the wonderful Chris Forhan and Alessandra Lynch at Butler University. He was honored to introduce Mark Strand for his reading at Butler, and to dine with Strand and Yusef Komunyaka on different occasions, and he once drove Robert Haas to his hotel in Ben’s filthy Volvo. Ben has been an artist in residence at the Providence Flea and at the Asheville Club. He has also written officially for Solid Sound Festival and PVD Fest.

He has never submitted work to be published, but hopes to collect some works into a manuscript soon.

Contact Ben