Lone Poetry: a video poetry in ASL (2006-07)

Statement by Jolanta Lapiak

Looking for a new inspiration or new ideas in sign language poetry, I went to three university libraries in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Scanning across the book titles shelf by shelf, all I saw was English poetry.

Standing there in front of the huge shelves of English poetry, I felt small and alone. In all search, I only found the closest thing -- something like a "poem in sign language." Delighted by this so much scarcity, I picked up the book and opened it.

My eyebrows raised in puzzlement. What is it? There was a series of the photographs of a hearing woman sitting on the chair: a sequence of crossing arms, holding hands on the laps, holding hands on the head, and so on. I tried to figure out what these repeated sequences of the photographs as if reading a morse code.

Standing in front of the huge shelves of English poetry, I realized that I was the only one who had to inspire myself for innovation. Staring at the books, a vision came to me. I imagined that this to-be-produced poem would be going to be inserted somewhere on this shelf at these unviersity libraries as part of my work of art (a performance).

The video also presents another form and concept of writing and poetry. In relation to the theory of complementarity or Derridean hinge, this work flips the sides between image and word, and between visuality and textuality. That is, my body in the form of image becomes word, and word in the form of language becomes a function of visual image.

This pioneering work is a form of concrete poetry in Ameslan (ASL) and English. There is no image of pictures, but images of words in English and Ameslan (ASL). The video is an experimental work on the concept of "concrete poetry in ASL". It then stretches beyond the notion of the traditional alphabetical writing and concrete poetry.

lone poetry in ASL video
Screenshot from video, 720x480px NTSC

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