Poetry is a fickle beast. Within the world of poetry, you can find the strictest of rules for what makes a particular type of poem, like a sonnet or a haiku, with set numbers of lines and syllables and rhyme schemes. Yet, it is also the most open and freeing of forms: the rules created are begging to be broken, and often the most dynamic poetry bursts free of the confines of pentameters and scansions.

No one should have to be a scholar to enjoy poetry, but it is the medium that can most intimidate people, often linked to bad memories of deciphering dusty classics in the classroom. As a BSL learner, I discovered the world of signed poetry, and was excited to uncover a whole new arena of visual poetry, once again proving that poetry can be accessible to everyone. My Viewfinder playlist takes you on a whistle stop tour of signed poetry and signed song.

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Identities by Richard Carter

Identities by Richard Carter

Jenny Sealey reviews Stairs and Whispers

Jenny Sealey reviews Stairs and Whispers

Dot Miles, The Ugly Duckling

Dot Miles, The Ugly Duckling

Long Lost Lover by Bea Webster

Long Lost Lover by Bea Webster

Caroline Parker, Singing Without My Voice

Caroline Parker, Singing Without My Voice

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Featured films:

  1. Do you speak seagull? Primary school children exploring BSL poetry, with BSL poet Richard Carter performing for the children, before they then create their own signed poems and perform to their peers and teachers. The project featured in this video was facilitated by the Brighton-based arts organisation Onca.
  2. Identities by Richard Carter – a well-known BSL poet, in this video, Richard Carter explores his different identities, and the ways in which they are perceived by the external world and how this impacts upon him.
  3. The first BSL poetry slam – the BBC follow Deaf poet Honesty Willoughby as she enters herself into the first BSL poetry slam. PLEASE NOTE: This video is only available directly on the BBC site.
  4. Jenny Sealey reviews an anthology of poetry written by D/deaf and disabled artists, including visual poetry and filmed poetry, and reflects on the explosion of signed poetry that is
  5. The Ugly Duckling by Dot Miles – Artistic director of Graeae, Jenny Sealey, refers to Dot Miles as one of the pioneers of signed poetry. This video is an older, archived video of her performing a poem called Ugly Duckling. It doesn’t have English captions, but they are unnecessary as the poem is visual enough for anyone, whether a BSL user or not, to understand.
  6. Long Lost Lover by Bea Webster, a BSL poem – this poem explores identity in more than one form, and uses projected photographs to enhance and give a new layer to visual and signed poetry.
  7. Caroline Parker – Singing Without My Voice – As well as poetry, signed song is an exciting and dynamic medium, which can provide access to music for D/deaf people and make music visual, giving it a different meaning and feeling for anyone watching, hearing or D/deaf. Caroline Parker is the master of signed song, having honed her own unique style, with the ability to tug on the heart strings with one song, and leave you in stitches the next. This video captures both ends of the spectrum in her TedX talk about singing without her voice.