During this first month into the semester, I’ve been working to focus more on how sound is used in poetry. In the past, I had a habit of reading poems in my head. I might be able to “hear” the words in my mind, but I’ll notice more of the creativity in sound when I read it out loud.
But this morning, I was reminded of something else. I had studied at Monroe Community College before transferring to SUNY Geneseo. In my time there, I took a couple years of American Sign Language. In one of the later classes, we got to perform ASL in creative forms, and I picked poetry. Now, I’m definitely better at working with words on paper than with my hands when it comes to poetry and storytelling. But it was a fascinating experience because I had never realized ASL can be used that way.
I remember watching the poem “Dandelions” by ASL poet Clayton Valli. Since ASL is a visual language, its poetry sends energy to viewers through sight rather than sound. But it still functions similarly. In order to create/change tone, or “voice,” movement is made graceful, sharp, etc… Repetition, rhythm, and facial expressions are also important tools used in ASL poetry. (And I know there’s a lot more that can be observed.)
I’ve attached a video of “Dandelions” (performed by Valli) for anyone interested. Valli paints a picture of dandelions swaying in the wind and an angry man ripping them out, only to spread seeds. With rain and sun, they grow again, peeking out little by little. In the end, the man rips them out again, but of course, the seeds scatter again too.
I thought this would be interesting to share since it’s very different from the poetry we’re used to. I just love how even without sound, poetry can be made every bit as effective when a person knows how to work the tools they have without it.