Sign Language Poetry: Guide Contents

This guide points to resources about international sign language poetry and literature.

Guide Contents

The black and white image shows the words "ASL Slam" and pictures of a hand signing "slam" from a closed fist to an open 5 handshape.This left image is from an ASL Slam ad in NYC. Douglas Ridloff runs the ASL Slam in NYC. 

This guide will assist you with Sign Language Poetry and Literature research. In addition to recommending online videos and DVDs, this guide provides assistance in finding articles, using selected databases and websites, and search tips related to this topic. If you have questions, feel free to contact me, Joan Naturale - I am the NTID and Deaf Studies Librarian and happy to help.

A great poetry website, the Museum of American Poetics is by Jim Cohn, an alumnus (interpreter) who was involved in the early years of ASL Poetry in Rochester, NY.  He published ACTION magazine which includes poems by Deaf poets Patrick Graybill, Peter Cook, and Debbie Rennie. He also curates Golden Bodies, an exhibit of MAP-inducted poets with disabilities.  Take a look at the ASL Poetry Archive from his website listed below.

BirdBrain Society, Bridge Of, Deaf Beat Summit, "Like a Teardrop in Some Forgotten Video" and the National Deaf Poetry Conference.

 Check out Karen Christie's website ASL Lit: Preserving Our Treasure. 

There are different types of ASL poetry and songs. Thanks to Don Bangs for sharing this description with me. This information is from Ben Jarashow's ASLTA  workshop, Summer 2019.

ASL Poetry: 
A. Types: Rhythmic or Narrative
B. Content: Direct Message or Hidden/Metaphoric Message
C. In the past, most Deaf disliked English poetry as it followed English rhyme and rhythm which made no sense. to them. 
D.  Deaf poets created visually appealing poetry in sign language, but still English based.
E.  Modern Era-Poetry based on patterns including movement, handshape, non-manual markers, location, and orientation. Challenging for ASL sign artists to create and for audiences to understand and appreciate.

Percussion signed and translated songs
A. With or without song rhythms
B. Some Deaf create their own, like the 'Bison Song', a percussion song. Seems to be waning in popularity.
C. Interpreted/translated songs

Original Songs
A.  Become like a rap style song
B.  Some examples (not original), ie, Rosa Lee

Interpreted Songs
A.  Some Deaf viewers prefer captions added to help make sense of the interpretation
B.  Most songs follow English word order, some try to follow ASL
c.  Many interpreted songs (most badly translated) 

Edit this Guide

Log into Dashboard

Use of RIT resources is reserved for current RIT students, faculty and staff for academic and teaching purposes only.
Please contact your librarian with any questions.

Facebook icon  Twitter icon  Instagram icon  YouTube icon