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Listen to My Hands

Deaf poets and interpreters in conversation

This past year, we collaborated with our wonderful partners at Pro Bono ASL to bring to our stage Deaf poets Crystal Martinez, Dominique Middlebrook, and April Scott, and Deaf interpreters Xgamil Campos-Espinosa and Romduol Ngov We are so deeply grateful to them for sharing their work with AAWW. The name of this portfolio, “Listen to my hands,” is a line from Crystal Martinez’s poem “Listen,” and calls for compassionate connection—the same element that produces community and care. 

As part of the Poetry Coalition’s 2022 theme, “The future lives in our bodies: Poetry and Disability Justice,” we wanted AAWW’s contribution to reach outward beyond the imaginary bounds of language and expression in Deaf culture and poetry. With Romduol and Xgamil, we waded through just the surface of language supremacy and empire and how these lineages work as hard stops for communication between communities, especially between Deaf and hearing communities. With Crystal we dug into writing poems about bodies, language, and discrimination. In this project, we wanted to investigate how metaphor transfers across cultures and why one language has to conform to the rubric of another.

We send our deepest gratitude to the Poetry Coalition, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and our luminous partners at Pro Bono ASL. Special thanks to Bea Phi for their collaboration and dedication to this project, Aishvarya Arora for their work towards developing this project, and to everyone at AAWW who helped build this program. To our extraordinary contributors, thank you for sharing space and your work with us. 

—t. tran le

Find the full list of pieces below.

 “Listen” by Crystal Martinez

 “Kintsugi Bowls” by Dominique Middlebrook

 “What I Know . . .” by April Scott

 “It All Leads Back to Language” by Xgamil Campos-Espinosa and Romduol Ngov

 “We Can Talk About This” featuring Crystal Martinez