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Analyzing the "Sperm" Poem in Deaf Jam

gcat's picture

All of Aneta's poetry in Deaf Jam for me was particularly striking and demonstrated a maturity beyond her high school age (certainly more mature than me at that age!). She not only was a creator, but a performer. Obviously, ASL is a physical form of communication, but as one of the teacher explains to the professional poet, she expresses emotions like anger and joy through her body as well. Even smaller details, like her facial expressions, conveyed the tone of the piece. 

One poem that specifically stood out for me, however, was the "sperm" poem. In terms of performance, it was well-structured. She engaged audiences both deaf and non-deaf people through sign and physical re-enactments (not to say it is necessary to engage the non-deaf for ASL poetry, but I believe in this case it is essential for her ending point). She inserts humor to hold that engagement with the multiple sperm. Finally, she "buttons" the piece with a point that adds significance and brings the audience back to reality. 

Speaking from a non-bourgeois improv perspective, though, the poem, more importantly, did advocacy work that made me remember it afterward. First, Aneta presents a generally universal experience (even those who are C-Sections (like myself actually) still are typically familiar with the impregnation and birthing processes). By the end, she connects it to both herself ("I made it") and then to the entire audience ("y'all did too"). She achieves work for advocacy on several levels there. It reminds the audience of common humanity, despite difference. We all start from the same place. Moreover, she shows the connection between the mother and baby and the kisses it receives. The idea then extends to "we are all human and valuable to someone." Love can be natural, and a baby can be different and still be loved. The physicality of the act of kissing also encourages accessibility. The baby does not need to hear, speak, or see to naturally receive love. 

Finally, cause I've apparently decided to write an essay for my post again, Aneta makes the distinction, however, between common humanity and the concept that we are all equal (movements like AllLivesMatter for instance). She says, first and foremost, that she made it. She does not completely fit into the crowd of the audience (I understand that in the situation in which she performs the poem, the students are deaf, but likely there are parents, faculty, siblings in the audience who are not), but that does not lessen her life. In fact, it empowers her. Her statement is not "I was born" or "I was that sperm" (lol). It is in the past tense, but I believe that past tense includes more than just her birth. She made it to that stage. It is not a matter of inspiration porn. She is not stating that she has accomplished the spectacular.  Indeed, the audience is in the same state as her. Rather, it declares her existence, current day. That she can and will be heard because she "made it." She knows that she may differ from others, but she holds no shame in that difference, because she knows the common humanity they ultimately all share, and that she has gained the same right to life as anyone else through "making it."