PITTSFIELD -- My music is a cloud underground. Regret is a bullet burning a shoe. Loneliness is a wall in the sun. Bruno Mars is a clock in the trash. My father is a mansion.
The first four sentences were written by ninth-graders at Pittsfield High School during a writing exercise called "blind metaphor."
The fifth one was produced by Adam Falkner, a New York City-based poet and high school teacher who gave the above students the writing prompt during Stephen Collingsworth's intensive English class. Falkner's visiting the city this weekend to do written and spoken work with both teenagers and adults.
Falkner will facilitate a teen workshop today through a collaborative he's a part of called Dialogue Arts Project, which promotes social identity and student leadership.
This evening he'll also host two open mics: One for teens at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and one for adults at yBar.
On Friday, he spent a full school day with roughly 300 students doing workshops with classes, culminating with a performance of his own work in the school's theater.
"That actually inspired me," Sheylimar Olavarria told Falkner after listening to his "My father is a mansion" poem in Collingsworth's class. She, too, is a writer, of both poetry and songs.
"I saw everything you were reading," she said, giving reverence to Falkner's flow of metaphors.
Other students were a bit stunned by some stranger sentences classmates created during the blind metaphor exercise, such as ones likening actor Channing Tatum to a yellow Labrador or a room as monkeys eating bananas. Falkner gave students context to the silliness.
"Things that feel weird or uncomfortable, awkward or strange are often the things that make moments of real writing opportunity," he said. "You need to risk and be willing to look stupid or crazy."
He explained that such moments "make writing fresh and interesting."
Which is exactly what high school writing needs, Collingsworth said.
The PHS English teacher said he regularly does an exercise with students called "automatic writing." Collingsworth has kids clear their minds and write from their own thoughts versus a prompt. He often uses a projector to show this activity as it's happening so students can watch writing as it's formed in the raw.
Collingsworth and Falkner said they noticed how several of the ninth-graders formed sentences referring to celebrity actors and singers.
"For some, it's all they know or think about. Imagination is this muscle that's atrophied in them. They need to see they have their own ideas and experiences to contribute," Collingsworth said.
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If you go ...
Today's free events in Pittsfield with poet-educator Adam Falkner:
What: Dialogue Arts Project: Youth Writing Workshop. This workshop for teens uses creative writing and performance to provide a dialogue about community and social diversity. Part of Out in the Berkshires Week.
When: 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave.
What: Youth Open Mic Night. Original and cited works welcome.
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave.
What: WordXWord Open Mic Night. Original and cited works welcome.
When: 8 p.m.
Where: yBar, 391 North St.
To learn more about Adam Falkner, visit http://adamfalknerarts.com