SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 81

Ethos of ASL Poetry Rose Ironically, in the years since Christie’s school experience, hearing students may have more access to ASL than d/Deaf students. A growing number of hearing American high school and college students study ASL as a second language, 2 and the growth of Deaf Studies and/or ASL programs may educate hearing faculty in related disciplines about Deaf culture. Thus, the conditions surrounding deafness and ASL may have changed in terms of legal rights to accommodation with interpreters and increased contact between d/Deaf and hearing children and teachers, but a key paradox remains. That is, more hearing Americans than ever are aware of ASL and Deaf culture, yet equal opportunity for d/Deaf American children and adults in language/communication, education, and employment continues to lag behind. 3 Despite a decreasing number of schools for d/Deaf children, with declining enrollments, ASL creativity persists, as it always has, but in different places and in different ways. On YouTube, examples of original ASL poems and stories posted by students and professional Deaf artists abound. Of particular note, many videos show children and adults performing the poetry of well-known Deaf artists as well as new works, suggesting the “canon” of ASL literature reaches a wide viewership and that the Deaf community flourishes in digital space. This resilience of Deaf culture and the poetic impulse in ASL reminds me of Clayton Valli’s famous poem, “Dandelion,” 4 in which a (presumably hearing, English-speaking) man mows down a field of (presumably Deaf, signing) dandelions, and yet the dandelions grow again. Even though the poem ends with a mowed field empty of dandelions and a smug, satisfied expression on the man’s face, the viewer knows the dandelions will inevitably return. With aspects of Deaf culture thriving online, mainstreamed d/Deaf children growing up may discover and turn to ASL poetry online to feel less isolated. Hearing students learning ASL may turn to ASL poetry online to increase their understanding of the language and culture. Though not addressed in her commentary, Christie’s professional endeavors have embraced the need for, and value of, more digital spaces for ASL poetry and other art works. One of the most noteworthy is the project she developed with Patti Durr, the website, The HeArt of Deaf Culture: Literary and Artistic Expressions of Deafhood, an ever-evolving repository chronicling the work of Deaf artists inspired by ASL. 5 The addendum to Christie’s commentary draws critical attention to the complex layers of power and privilege evident in intersectional realities that have impacted the visibility of particular Deaf poets. Reviewing the Deaf artists and scholars who defined ASL poetry and led the movement in the 1980s and 1990s, they were primarily white, 2 Based on data last updated in September 2018, 196 universities accept ASL as fulfilling foreign language requirements, suggesting thousands of hearing college students are learning ASL as a second language. (https://www.unm.edu/~wilcox/UNM/univlist.html) 3 As a group, persons who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing tend to be less educated than their hearing peers; more than fifty percent of d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing persons have attained only a high school or less than high school education compared to only forty percent for hearing persons. Twenty-four percent of those who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing are college graduates compared with thirty-nine percent for the hearing population. (https://www.ntid.rit.edu/collaboratory/demographics) 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ1LTInEQbk 5 https://www.ntid.rit.edu/ntidweb/heart/content/ASLLiterature/index.php SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 81