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Clarksville MD

Deaf Poetry

(January 13 2010) Written by: Emily Okey in Coursework

I mentioned in my post [here] that I was taking not one but two classes this quarter for my ASL concentration (which I recently learned that I can turn into a minor but that's another whole story). If you have not heard previously, NTID is a big part of the culture on campus. NTID stands for National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is home to around 2,000 Deaf or hard of hearing students. It gets a little complicated but if you are Deaf or hard of hearing you can be cross registered in both NTID and RIT. Lots of acronyms, I know! It's pretty neat because it means that some of my classes that aren't ASL or something obviously associated with the Deaf community can still have interpreters or other access services. There is definitely a difference in communication styles but personally I find it really interesting to watch the interpreters and try to pick up as much sign as I can. Last year I lived on a mainstream floor which means that it was about 75% Deaf or hard of hearing. It's a great way to pick up sign language without even trying that hard (by not trying hard, i'm not saying that it's easy, you just don't have to go out of your way to learn it because you're completely surrounded!)

In my Deaf literature class this quarter we're studying Deaf poetry. When I originally heard that I thought, okay so we're going to be reading poetry by Deaf authors. Sounds okay, I'm not really a huge fan of poetry to begin with but I thought I'd give it a shot. Turns out it's nothing like that. The best way to show is by video because that's how it is performed! It actually takes a few times through (and some explanation) to fully understand it all. A lot of what is so interesting is how they use minimal hand-shapes to convey their meaning. 

The first is a poem that I had to analyze for class, it's called Need and talks about the need for change. 
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This second video is a lot longer, about an hour. It's really cool to watch if you have the time, if not skip to around 5:15 and you can see my favorite one performed by Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner.
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There are tons more videos out there if you're interested. 

If you have a chance in your 4 (or 5) years here, I highly recommend taking at least an American Sign Language 1 class it's a great way to learn how to better communicate. And heck, I even use sign when I don't even need it -- which annoys my sister because she can never figure out what I'm saying. Oops :)

Side Note: You might be wondering why I keep writing Deaf with the capital D (or you might not have even noticed :)) but Deaf refers to the community and supporters of Deaf culture while the lowercase deaf refers to the condition of being deaf. Just a slight difference but I thought that was interesting.

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