Michigan State University’s ASL Browser web site is “an online American Sign Language (ASL) browser where you can look up video of thousands of ASL signs and learn interesting things about them.” Extremely useful—film clips are far more helpful than verbal descriptions for learning sign language. (Via MetaFilter.)
Addendum. ASL poetry:
Prior to the 1970s, there are no published records about ASL poets or poetry. To be sure, the art of storytelling has a long history in ASL and Deaf culture, and skilled storytellers are revered as in other cultures. In the 1960s, William Stokoe of Gallaudet University began the first analysis of sign language based upon linguistic principles. As the understanding and acceptance of these ideas of ASL structure spread, so did the art of manipulating these structures for poetic effect. Valli reports that by the 1970s, there may have been as many as five ASL poets. At first, many Deaf people were resistant even to the idea of poetry; upon hearing of a poetry performance, one woman tells that she believed it was a performance for a translation of an English poem, much like a performance of music put to sign. In fact, the sign for POETRY in ASL is nearly identical to the sign for MUSIC. Realizing that he would need to overcome such misconceptions to gain acceptance, Valli stopped using the sign POETRY, and for many years fingerspelled P-O-E-T when speaking of ASL poetry. Now, a new sign has emerged into popular use, which clearly distinguishes ASL poetry from English poetry.
“The most difficult part is rhyming,” explains Novak, noting that rhyme is by definition a similarity of sounds, a concept that is inherently foreign to sign language. The way out of the paradox, he explains, is to find close visual images to translate the text. Sometimes, it can take hours to come up with just the right adaptation, he notes.