There’s a fascinating discussion at the site I Love Everything (with which I was previously unfamiliar, but whose name definitely appeals to me) that began with the question “How do the deaf interpret rhyme?” Along with some understandable defensiveness from deaf people interpreting it as implying they should value rhyme in some way, it became a very interesting exchange of ideas; this in particular brings up things I had never thought about and would like to know more about:
There are entirely different patterns by which poetry & narrative are constructed in the deaf community. A deaf person can of course read conventional poetry, with rhyme and all that, but it tends not to carry the same weight or interest that sign-specific stories & poetry do.
There is an enormously rich “oral” tradition (ie, carried on exclusively through signing and not written down) in the deaf community that is pretty much entirely unknown to the hearing world. I recently wrote a screenplay for an animated program for deaf children my ex is producing for p b s. I wrote the scenario, which was then translated into ASL by her and by the deaf actors doing improvisations (they filmed it in rotoscope). My original script almost completely vanished, since the puns and jokes and signifiers and the interesting patterns they can be put into are so hugely different from written speech.
The deaf world is really a self-sustaining alternate universe, with its own cultural codes and achievements. Hearing-based formal elements, like rhyme, are largely irrelevant to them and it’s a common mistake (one I used to make as well; I’m not trying to scold you) to assume they value, or should value, the same things we do.
– chester (goth_casua…), July 25th, 2003
This gives me the sense of an entire cultural world about which I know nothing, like when I first began to realize the riches of Persian civilization. So many worlds, so little time—how can people ever get bored?