ASL signs for POEM

There are two separate ASL signs -- one for poem/poetry of spoken language and another for poem/poetry of signed language. Why? See the story.

Meaning (speech language): a piece of writing or speaking in which the words are chosen for their beauty and sound and are carefully arranged, often in short lines which rhyme.

Meaning (sign language): a piece of writing/speaking in which the words are chosen for their beauty and sound and are carefully arranged, often in short lines which rhyme.

Why are they separate signs for the same concept? There is a history behind it.

In the past hundreds of years, Deaf people and their signed languages have been oppressed by hearing society and they were forced into speech language and other traumatic "therapies". Discrimination, linguicism, and all other painful experiences.

Linguistics in sign language was discovered in the 1960s by Dr. William Stokoe (hearing American) which revolutionized the concept of language, and then poetry in sign language was later recognized in the 1970s by Clayton Valli (Deaf American) in his dissertation.

When Valli brought sign language poetry to Deaf community, the concept of poetry was all associated with spoken language that Deaf people resisted or found no interest in poetry. Valli realized that the problem was with the signed word associated with spoken language. Not to mention, the sign itself was under the influence of English Sign. So, he used a different sign that conveys a beautiful concept which associates poetry with sign language which was then embraced with heart.

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Basic word starters: hello / learn / ASL / sign language / alphabet / love / I love you / please / thank you / welcome...

Search Tips and Pointers

Search/Filter: Enter a keyword in the filter/search box to see a list of available words with the "All" selection. Click on the page number if needed. Click on the blue link to look up the word. For best result, enter a partial word to see variations of the word.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Alphabetical letters: It's useful for 1) a single-letter word (such as A, B, etc.) and 2) very short words (e.g. "to", "he", etc.) to narrow down the words and pages in the list.

For best result, enter a short word in the search box, then select the alphetical letter (and page number if needed), and click on the blue link.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Don't forget to click "All" back when you search another word with a different initial letter.

If you cannot find (perhaps overlook) a word but you can still see a list of links, then keep looking until the links disappear! Sharpening your eye or maybe refine your alphabetical index skill. :)

Add a Word: This dictionary is not exhaustive; ASL signs are constantly added to the dictionary. If you don't find a word/sign, you can send your request (only if a single link doesn't show in the result).

Videos: The first video may be NOT the answer you're looking for. There are several signs for different meanings, contexts, and/or variations. Browsing all the way down to the next search box is highly recommended.

Video speed: Signing too fast in the videos? See HELP in the footer.

ASL has its own grammar and structure in sentences that works differently from English. For plurals, verb inflections, word order, etc., learn grammar in the "ASL Learn" section. For search in the dictionary, use the present-time verbs and base words. If you look for "said", look up the word "say". Likewise, if you look for an adjective word, try the noun or vice versa. E.g. The ASL signs for French and France are the same. If you look for a plural word, use a singular word.