May 27, 2015
Hear my Hands
"Can you hear me? Listen, not with
your ears But with your eyes. To you they speak,
My silent hands. Hear me tell my tale. My beautiful native language.
Full of color and expression! Hear
my silent hands. We have a tale to tell,
A song to sing. Open your eyes and hear and see me speak!" (Jaswal pg.1).
Language has a powerful affect on mankind. It moves us deeply within our heart
and soul. The Deaf Community is contributing to the poetic genre of our world in
two specific ways: Deaf poetry and ASL poetry.
Deaf poetry is written by those who identify themselves with the Deaf
community. John Lee Clark, editor of Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology, states
"Collectively, the poems tell the story of the signing community's development
and how Deaf people struggle against oppressive forces to discover more about
themselves and to celebrate who they are" (Clark pg.1). The strong emotions
evoked by a hearing loss can span the spectrum from loneliness to triumph. The
classic poem by Willard Madsen entitled, "You Have to be Deaf to Understand",
clearly expresses what it means to be Deaf.
What is it like to be laughed in the face
When you try to repeat what is said;
Just to make sure that you understood
And you find that the words were misread-
And you want to cry out, "Please help me, friend?"
You have to be Deaf to understand (Berke Pg.1).
One can also see there are words of encouragement and overcoming hard
The poem, My Hands, by Stevie Drown, embraces what others may see as a
Then I looked into the mirror and
Saw the good this looking back,
I had to take the positives--
Put them on the right track.
I thought a lot about it
And now i want to shout,
The wondrous gifts God gave me
Outnumber what He left out.
So let me take the challenge
In meeting life's demands--
I have the power to change things,
And it lives here in my hands (Berke pg 3).
Deaf poetry has expanded our understanding and vision into the hearts and
minds of the Deaf. In addition to Deaf poetry, ASL poetry is a beautiful art form that
intersects both the hearing and the non-hearing world. Spoken or written poetry
may not have the same impact as the images created using visual signs. Words
ASL poetry has different, special components and characteristics that spoken
poetry does not have. It is three dimensional. Body movements convey the
meaning. No paper or text is required. The body is the text. The performer
paints a picture and makes the poetry come alive, thus enabling people to
understand and enjoy this art form.
Many of the components of the ASL poetry are similar to the signing of ASL.
Hand shape is the first aspect.. In poetry, the same hand shape used
repetitively is indicative of rhyming words. Non-manual signs such as head,
mouth, and eyebrow movement may be exaggerated for greater effect. Movement is
also very important. Signing in slow motion can have a dramatic effect on the
audience. ASL poetry also utilizes simultaneous right/left signing. For example,
the right hand is continually "crying" while the left hand is telling the story.
In addition to simultaneous signing, this poetic form can use multiple people.
The team of Peter Cook and Keith Wann entertain their audiences around the world
with four hands signing simultaneously with one performer standing behind the
other. The visual and descriptive imagery made with signs allow those that might
not know ASL to understand the message of the poem.
Language is powerful. It has the ability to reach to the very core
of humanity The arts help us express the struggles of life we all encounter.
Deaf poetry and ASL poetry provide an outlet for the Deaf community to express,
educate, enlighten and entertain society about Deaf culture. "Listen carefully
and you will hear the heart beat of the Deaf. You will gain access to their
world and their understanding and culture. You are privileged to be allowed to
glimpse inside their world. Handle it gently. Allow yourself to feel what they
feel to experience what they have experienced. Allow it to impact with this
world. If you do, you will be forever changed" (Deaf
1. Jaswal, Anita. "Listen To Her Hand." FG:. Arap Media, 1 June 2013.
Web. 27 May 2015.
2. Clark, John Lee. Deaf American Poetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
3. Berke, Jamie. "Poetry by Deaf and Hard of Hearing People." N.p., n.d. Web. 27
4. Berke, Jamie. "Poetry by Deaf and Hard of Hearing People." N.p., n.d. Web. 27
5. "Expressions of the Heart." Deaf World Ministries. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May
Deaf Poetry: "Hearts and Hands"
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