SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 82

Ethos of ASL Poetry Rose included more men than women, and did not address additional identities such as sexual orientation. This awareness does not diminish at all the vital role these artists played in creating a first “canon” of ASL literature, the building blocks from which subsequent generations would learn. This awareness does, however, underscore how the “canon” has expanded—and needs to continue to expand—with Deaf persons of color, more women, and a Deaf LGBTQ perspective, among other identities and lived experiences that were more invisible in the Deaf world of the past—an invisibility paralleled in the hearing world of the past. Christie’s addendum alludes to the 1990s work as a kind of first wave ASL poetry, much like first wave feminism. As with other literature and art forms, ASL poetry has evolved and become more inclusive of multiple identities. Observing the powerful identification Christie feels towards Rennie’s work, I am struck anew by how hearing people tend to take spoken language—and communication in general—for granted, unless or until their access to speech is challenged. We know that poetry and narrative created in sign languages challenges the bias of spoken language- based literature, that the signed language presents remarkable possibilities for linguistic creativity. Thus, in addition to extending the expressive and symbolic capacity of ASL, the study of ASL poetry serves to broaden and deepen our conceptualization of poetry itself. As the acceptance of ASL to fulfill foreign language requirements increases across the US, the possibilities for cross-cultural and intercultural contact also increase, while at the same time exposing ASL to a dominant hearing world that has historically tried to diminish it. As I observe intercultural interaction between the Deaf instructor and hearing students in my university’s Intro to ASL class, and as I view the ever-growing body of ASL poetry on YouTube, I am struck again by the phenomenological richness and linguistic distinctiveness of ASL as a visual-spatial language. The communicative presence of ASL merits continued exploration for the intrinsic value of signed language and its linguistic artistry; for the socio-cultural-historical moment of understanding the Deaf world; for the continued critique of normative spoken language poetics, and; for fostering and improving cross-cultural and intercultural contact between Deaf and hearing individuals via access to ASL and its creative output. A humanistic approach to difference has the potential to provide Deaf individuals equal access to education and economic advancement. Recognizing and respecting difference is more effective than the current American education policy that equates access with sameness. What does it mean to consider the rhetoric of ASL in its simultaneous and shifting status of protected marker of cultural inclusion and foreign language alternative—and how is this evolution changing perceptions of ASL as well as the language itself? New works of ASL poetry and narrative, new literary theory and criticism, and ongoing reflections like Christie’s can help us answer these questions and I hope many others. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 82