Sign Language Poetry

3350 Words14 Pages
American Sign Language poetry has evolved in many ways since its inception, and has aided sign language itself in becoming considered its own language and a whole new form of visual literature. Sign Language has come to be recognized as an individual language, not just signs for English words, and has changed with the continuously growing world around it, keeping up with social evolution, and technological advancement, along with the visual culture as well. The language itself is a complicated multilevel language, and poetry is a large part of it. The poetry of the language has struggled and forced its way in to today’s world, and is finally settling in and claiming its place. To be able to fully understand and analyze Sign Language Poetry, we need to first understand what it is, and where it originated. Sign language has been around for hundreds of years, dating back to the B.C. years (Signing the Body Poetic, 2). Although vast storytelling talents and techniques have existed in sign language since its earlier times, the stories did not evolve into poems until around the 1980s (Sutton-Spence, 17). There were of course deaf people who performed poetry before this time, but there were never any poems authored by people in the deaf community. All the poems that were performed in sign language were translated from English just as sign language games, sign language chants, and sign language songs were also translations (Sutton-Spence, 17). For a long time English was regarded as the more ‘proper’ language. It was associated with higher class people, so in higher status situations English was used as opposed to sign language, which was considered to be inferior, and unfit for ‘real’ high-status social conversation. Poetry fell into the category of ‘high status conversation’, so it was only to be performed in the spoken language, and was not socially acceptable to be

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