04/02/2013 12:16 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2013

(I)Witness - A New Spin on Storytelling


On a gorgeous Saturday morning at the tail end of March, Type Rider ( returned to the Chelsea High Line with BraveGirlsArt ( founder Amy Tingle. We brought hula hoops and a spruced-up Remington Ten Forty (thanks to Staten Island's Michael Ardito to set a celebratory tone for spring.

This time, instead of responding to a pre-determined prompt at the top of the page, participants were given a few options to inspire their writing: to randomly select two words from a tin of Magnetic Poetry tiles OR to pick a number between 5 and 75 and select from a jar of small scrolls containing a phrase to include in their story. We were joined mid-day by NYC performance artist and actress Elisa Blynn, who helped us debut a new twist on storytelling.

"(I)Witness" is a collaborative story exchange between two people that is a updated version of the old game of "Telephone." One person takes the role of storyteller and the other is the typist. The storyteller picks two Magnetic Poetry ( tiles from the tin and the typist selects one of the scrolled prompts; the storyteller then has 1 minute to tell their story to the typist, who simply listens and acts as a witness to the story. After the time is up, the typist has 2 minutes to type the story they heard in their own words, then share it back to their partner. The stories become interpretations and re-imaginings of the originals, often with unexpected messages and meanings for the storyteller. In forthcoming excursions to the High Line, we will continue to offer "(I)Witness" as part of the menu of Type Rider collaborations.

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Story prompt: I wonder if...
Magnetic Poetry words: happy, morning

I wonder if, I wonder if I woke up every morning and I was living my life in my truth in tune with spirit and god and all the forces of my nature behind it energizing my path. I wonder if I was living, if I was living the life of my dreams, if I was living the life of my dreams I would be happy and in the flow of life and I would be happy whether the sun were shining or not. The sun would not always be shining but I would I would I would I would I would that I were. Am I? Am I? Living the life of my dreams? I am happy. It is morning and it dawns on me. I am happy. And life is but a dream. It is my dream. I wonder it my dream? Am I the dreamer of this dream? I wonder and I wander and the morning has come and I am happy to BE. Am I? I wonder...

Story prompt: I am...
Magnetic Poetry words: out, celebrate

It's spring and I am out and I have to build a house and the house is made of strawberries. So I go to the strawberry patch and gather strawberries but first I have to make jam. So I make jam so that I can smear it all over the house so the house is build and then the jam starts to melt and so it is spring and I am out and I have to celebrate. I have to make toast.

Story prompt: Everything changed...
Magnetic Poetry words: wing, thought

Today, after devouring tons and tons of cake and sparkly mimosas, I suddenly get the urge to walk along the Highline, and then I thought I would fly! But I've only got one wing! So I walk along the Highline with one wing. And I ask someone if they could help me fly. And they think I'm craaaaaazy! But it's New York.

Story prompt: age 11, This is...

This is how I walked to school each day when I was 11. My boyfriend would come up to the end of the block I lived on and I would meet him there at the same time every weekday. We had a little rock that we would toss back and forth as we walked. I kept the rock for a long time and now I sometimes drive to work along the very same path and remember the time we spent together.

Story prompt: age 49, Not that long ago...

Not that long ago I turned 39, in February. Ten years from now I will be 49. At that time, my husband will be 61 and it made me think. Where will we be? What will we be doing? Will I have managed to bring him here to New York? I really hope so. Whatever we do, as long as it's him and me...we'll be fine.

Story prompt: Unless...
Magnetic Poetry words: porcelain, flower

porcelain flower
delicate soul
waiting for the sun
caressing her gently
she has grown through cement
cracked the very heart of stone
and yet
she will not bloom
delicate is her soul
fragile is her stem
beautiful is her fragrance
love her for who she is and what she gives
porcelain flower

Story prompt: Age 12, Everything changed...

What happened at 12 and not 11 not 13
really nothing
nothing happens at twelve but it feels like everything
when can everything feel like something again?
when can nothing be enough
maybe when I am 112
112 will be just like 12
everything will change
and nothing will happen

Story prompt: Age 14, To tell you the truth...

To be 14 to tell you the truth it's exciting, 8th grade hallways, lockers, bullies and more, you make more friends and lose others. It's a scary thing...

Story prompt: Age 41, Wouldn't you know it...

A few months in and already so much learned. I will dedicate this year to letting the world be my guide. Put it out into the universe and it will conspire in your favor.

Story prompt: This is...
Magnetic Poetry words: ffun, window

Fun window on the world, on my soul. This window is opaque, recently streaked with Dollar Store Windex-type cleaning solution and yesterday's New York Times. Still, the crows of my ennui keep flying into it. Heart, listen to my brain. Near the silent fear and squash it! You're stronger and wiser...time to take charge.

Story prompt: Age 15, To tell you the truth...

I don't remember much about 15 except that friends were what made the world bigger than my family.

Story prompt: Age 65, I can't explain why...

I am falling off the edge of the Empire State Building at age 65. It started when I was bungee jumping.

Story prompt: I hope...
Magnetic Poetry words: sister, approve

My sister and cousins and I were together and I took them to London. They had never experienced a casino. So I took them to experience a casino and taught them to gamble. Later, my dad called and I informed him that I took my sister gambling. I did not think he would approve but hoped he would and he did.

Story prompt: It still surprises me...
Magnetic Poetry words: cat, thought

It still surprises me that I became a dog person. I had always thought of myself as a cat person for 50 years. Then I got a bichon for my youngest and he helped a lot. In my parents' final time, I am glad I became a dog person.

Story prompt: No matter what...
Magnetic Poetry words: eat, white

This is a cautionary tale. Once upon a time in a foreign country, a boy had developed a strange taste for strange activities. Eating snow. Eating the white white snow. One day his mother, wanting to curb his impulse, warned, "Son, do not eat yellow snow." And so he goes on through life having a strange aversion to the color yellow.

Story prompt: It amazes me...

It amazes me that people are resilient. We're in such a globalized, technologically driven world. Let's look at Zwelethemba, a bubble of community, face-time, real life and tin roofs and the pick and pay and walls that don't reach the ceiling....and they're so happy. Resilient, strong, tight-knit community. Do we have that in our world as we sit in NYC?

Story prompt: More than anything...
Magnetic Poetry words: wing, heart

Once there was a boy named Christian. More than anything, he wanted love. If only he had wings, then he could fly around the world from country to country. Maybe somewhere, be it London, Beijing or Paris, he would swoop down and a park, on the bus or on the street, would find the one he's been looking for.

Story prompt: Fortunately...
Magnetic Poetry words: need, rain

I don't need the rain today. I just came back from a place where the language was not my own, hearing stories of the Holocaust. One young child survivor was playing a game called Concentration Camp and the elder said, "Look how easy it is to train more murderers." Fortunately words alone are not communicators. I am home, the sun is out and we have liberation at hand and we can play the game anyway we want is good to be home where my words are also what I mean.

Story prompt: I like to tell myself...
Magnetic Poetry words: summer, slow

I like to tell myself that I would go to an empty beach and strip down naked and dive dive into the wide wide ocean. But last summer I went with a friend and there we were. It was summer and it was slow and we looked around and there was a man there. We didn't dive in. We didn't get naked. But I can do it in my mind on the shore of my eternal dreams, which are as real as it gets, baby. Naked and true, me free on the sands of time.

Story prompt: I am an expert at...
Magnetic Poetry words: rainbow, belly

The cupboards are bare. So I must follow my path of expertise. You see, I am an expert at food. At eating and cooking food. At hunting and gathering in the modern sense. I go out across the land chasing rainbows and when I find one, I go to the proverbial pot of gold...the food that the food producer makes. I collect all the ingredients and assemble them and into my carriage and driv while I eat my collectibles, my treasures in edibility. And when I come upon the next rainbow I know where I must go for my next expert most edible meal. I am not a leprechaun. But I do know what a pot of gold looks and tastes like.

Story prompt: It comes down to this...
Magnetic Poetry words: fat, desire

It comes down to this. The Kardashian girl has got it down. My mom knew it too. Getting preggers is all about getting fat. Fat with food. Fat with birth. Fat with life. Fat will all the deliciousness that the heart has to offer. Shamelessly eating, consuming, giving it all to that little egg inside so it has all the possibility of becoming anything at know that she has access to all that life has to offer. I will get skinny again later. For now...I will be a fat cat with a baby to show for it, with her huge huge huge fat fat happy grin and wailing at how happy she is to be alive. My big beautiful baby.

(with apologies to Giacomo for the poor re-typing)
Un uomo anziano si alzo, Durante la notte per bere. La prima notte vide fuori d'all finestra...fiori che stav ano morenod. Il giorno dopo hagno I fiori e ripete lo stasso gesto per moltti giorni e notti di motive dei...suoi gesti e lui di se che tutto questo valvel valevala penasolo..un bocciolo che stave spuntando.

. . . . . . .

Our good friend Michael Marantz from Already Alive (, a storytelling studio, took a wonderful audio recording of the experience. You can find it here on Cowbird:




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