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INDIANAPOLIS — Three random words. That’s how a man is forming connections and inspiring people across Indianapolis.

For years, Ben Bernthal has been going around the country with a typewriter. Strangers give him three words, and he uses them to write a poem.

“I like that it allows me to talk to people that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to speak with, so people of all different backgrounds, all different ages,” Bernthal said. “I’ll take notes, we’ll talk more about what they’re thinking, what’s behind the words, and then I’ll look at the words in my notes and I’ll try to imagine relationships between the words.”

A recent example is resonant, earnest and wind. Other times, the words are more random, like kayak, pineapple and octagon. Bernthal said he starts thinking about the words and listens for the music of the language.

“Because a poem is a song without a melody, right? There’s still music in it, but it’s not melodic,” Bernthal said. “I’m listening for the internal rhyme, for the rhythm, and then I’m just trying to follow that until it feels complete.”

Bernthal’s time in Indianapolis is ending. He’s moving to San Francisco in the coming weeks.

To find Bernthal’s poetry and request your own commissions, visit