‘Express Yourself’ at Portsmouth Bookfest!

I’m nervous.

I’m excited.

Regular readers of my blog may know that I had an amazing time at the Signing Hands Across the Water poetry festival in Philadelphia and was exposed to different styles of Sign Language poetry, including use of interpreters to give a voiceover. The ASL poets both had interpreters, whilst none of the BSL poets did, and we had many fruitful and interesting discussions that weekend, some of which are still whirling around my head. Everyone I ask has a different opinion as to whether Sign Language poetry should be translated. Should it have a voiceover? Should it be left ‘pure’? Does it make it easier for hearing people who don’t sign to understand it? Or are we making them lazy and unable to appreciate the beauty of the poetry on its own merit?

By almost sheer luck, I’ve been given the opportunity to explore these questions. I’ve been invited to perform at Portsmouth Bookfest next Monday 29th October, just managed to get hold some final details a few days ago (they’re so busy organising I think they may have forgotten about me slightly – I’d better give them something to remember!) and here is the poster!

Express Yourself BookFest poster

I realise it’s short notice, but will be seeing if we can’t get a video made of the event! I will be performing with Sam Cox, Portsmouth Poet Laureate and Joe McQuilken, Portsmouth Young Poet Laureate, so will be exalted company 🙂 Their poetry will be interpreted into BSL, so a fully accessible event!

As you can see, the theme is ‘Express Yourself’ and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to explore different ways of ‘expressing myself’ through my poetry, by performing various poems with a different degree of voiceover. The first will fully voiced, the last will have next to nothing, and there’ll be varying degrees in between. I’m hoping to get feedback from the audience as to which they preferred and why. The lucky interpeter is Kyra Pollitt, who is not only a highly experienced terp, she’s into poetry as much as I am, maybe even more, and am hoping we’ll be a poetic force to be reckoned with!

I am really hoping that despite the very short notice, we can get some of the deaf community through the doors, please spread news of the event far and wide and see if any sign language poetry lovers would like to come! I am really keen to get feedback from as wide a range of people as possible; from deaf to hearing, from signers to non-signers, from the young to old; everyone – which poem works best and why? Does the voiceover help? Does it distract? Or does the strength of the poem determine its impact rather than whether its ‘translated’ or not?

I’m really keen to get some answers to these questions, even if it only leaves me with more questions! I would love to explore this side of poetry – signed / English, and anyone that wants to join me, and is free at 7pm in the area of Menuhin Theatre, Portsmouth on Mon 29th, is very welcome 🙂

4 thoughts on “‘Express Yourself’ at Portsmouth Bookfest!

  1. Lois Burt

    hi Donna, I have to say i really enjoyed this evenings performance in Portsmouth. Being a cat lover myself I think you captured the finer points of cat behavior…… or should i say misbehavior….perfectly and more to the point you demonstrated this with great humor and without words, can’t beat the universal language of cat ;-). Hope to see you back in Portsmouth and performing again soon.xx

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Thanks very much, really glad you liked it! Cat should be a language at the UN 🙂 Hope to perform in Portsmouth again, had a really good time, and Portsmouth very welcoming 🙂 xx

  2. DJ Kirkby

    I was at this event last night and I think your poetry is astonishingly enjoyable and emotive. I say this in a surprised (rather than patronising) way as I am not a huge fan of poetry. It was also my number 3 son’s first experience of how being differently abled is a powerful ‘thing’ and judging by the standing ovation he gave after each poem it’s pretty obvious how much he enjoyed the event too. Thank you.

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Hi there, thanks very much, I realise poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’m really happy I managed to make it enjoyable 😀 Number 3 son is absolutely adorable, full of cat-related facts and cute as a button. I saw him at the back, I’m really glad he was getting so much out of it! You’re very welcome, I had a lovely time, and meeting number 3 son was great. His words “you being a sign language poet is really cool” were very touching and may well cheer me up in dark moments 🙂 Thank you!


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