Poetry, Signed

Poetry is most often distinguished from prose by its heightened use of linguistic elements. Sign poetry is no different, except where oral and written poetry pays special attention to the sound of language, sign language poets focus on the visual, spatial, and kinetic elements of the medium. As poets bring to the foreground the materiality of language through a conscious manipulation of the smallest elements of language—phonemes—they are able to create a variety of rhyming and rhythmic patterns. Sign language, like oral language, is composed of meaningless phonemic units that, when added together, create linguistic meaning. Rhymes in sign poetry are created through patterning of particular (1) handshapes; (2) locations; (3) movement paths; (4) palm orientations; and (5) nonmanual signals, such as facial expressions. These ...

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