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Rhyming in ASL

ekoren's picture

Since I had already watched Deaf Jam, and I like spending (probably far too much) of my time on YouTube and particularly amongst channels with disability content, I was curious to see what I would discover if I searched for ASL poetry, as per Kristin's suggestion. The very first link on the page (I literally searched "ASL Poetry"), lead me down a super interesting rabbit hole (as YouTube does). Here is a link to the video I watched (of a poem titled "Deaf Heart"). The poet mentioned in her video that she didn't have an English translation of the poem, and so encouraged viewers to comment their interpretation. After viewing the poem I scrolled down to read some interpretations, and I saw that the poet had pinned a comment at the top. Here's the translated version:

"A heartbeat pounds, within me strong

A beat consistent, as a song

But singing yet, does not appease

The world around me, just a tease

They talk, they chat, they have a spat

Without a sound, imagine that!

My heartbeat now, the only tone

I sit, I stare, I'm all alone

The beat it fades, a somber dirge

Then a shocking, shaking surge

My eyes are struck, my senses peaked

I've never seen a sight so sweet

A language without metronome

A language I can call my own

These people my experiences share

My whole life passing, unaware

All this time in quiet space

All alone and out of place

Now my heart is torn in two

"Who am I?", or "I AM WHO?"

I know my heart has made it clear

My reservations disappear

I give myself to their embrace

To ASL my saving grace

My heart beats on and on in me

My heart is Deaf, and now I see"

This particular interpretation had a fairly long reply chain- someone had asked the interpreter about their decision to make the translation rhyme. It was unclear to the commenter (and to me) what the function of rhyming is in ASL. I think the thread itself is super interesting, but the original interpreter included a link to a really cool video on rhyming in ASL that I specifically loved. I watched a few other videos on rhyming in ASL but that first video was definitely the best (and very short), so I encourage you to watch it if you have a second!