Poetry by Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

Expressing Deep Thoughts on Life With Hearing Loss

ASL poetry at the Lexington School for the Deaf. PBS

 

Hearing loss can stir up some pretty strong feelings. The arts offer an outlet for those feelings. One popular medium for expressing feelings about deafness and hearing loss is poetry. Poetry has been used to express feelings, offer a different view of the world, and express a single moment in time. 

Many deaf poets use their art to overcome misconceptions the hearing world has about deaf culture and to show others the pride in their culture,​ the success of their members, and the beauty of their language.

Seeing a poem performed in American Sign Language (ASL) truly helps bring the poet's words to life. Some of these poems are classics reproduced on the web; others are new homegrown efforts. With easy access to video, it's easier than ever for deaf poetry to be displayed and enjoyed online. For the printed word, there are books collecting deaf poetry.

Classics

These classic poems are printed expressions of what it means to be deaf.

  • "You Have to be Deaf to Understand" Few poems about deafness can surpass this 1971 classic by Willard Madsen for how well it expresses what it means to be deaf.
  • "Thoughts of a Deaf Child" by Steven Bellitz. The last line of this modern classic will stay with you forever. It is still true even today.
  • " Deaf" This modern classic would have been better titled "Left Out," as it expresses what it feels like to be left out when around hearing people.

Books

  • Raymond Luczak is a deaf poet who has published a handful of books of his poetry:
    • "St. Michael's Fall" poems about growing up deaf and Catholic in a small Michigan town in the 1970s.
    • "This Way to the Acorns" Poems grouped by seasons of growing up and exploring the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
  • "On His Deafness" This tome collects poems about deafness by Robert Panara, a well-known deaf educator. 
  • " Sounds of the Soul" This anthology collects poems by deaf Canadians and is available through the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf bookstore.
  • "Deaf American Poetry" is an anthology edited by John Lee Clark. 
  • "The Deaf Way Anthology" (volumes I and II) are a literary collection of writers who are deaf and hard of hearing. It includes poetry, a play, essays, and short stories are from an international group of writers. 

ASL Poetry

ASL poetry is performed and must be seen in order to appreciate the full meaning. Written or oral translations simply do not capture all of what is expressed by the poet. Learn more about ASL poetry.

Showcases

  • The Tactile Mind was a literary magazine that published poetry by deaf people.
  • The National Technical Institute for the Deaf features all types of art by deaf artists on their website.
  • Student Poetry: The World Around You magazine, formerly published by Gallaudet University's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center,  frequently publishes poetry by deaf teens.

Sources:

Deaf Poetry Expressions From the Heart. http://deafworldministries.com/deafpoetry.html

What is ASL Poetry?  Deaf Jam.  http://www.deafjam.org/poetry.html. 

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