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Power of the unspoken word

By Cheng Yuezhu | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-20 08:32

Beijing Body On&On Cultural Exchange Center and Sign Alley co-host an inclusive poetry workshop, in which most participants are deaf or hard of hearing. LI XIAOCAO/FOR CHINA DAILY

Inclusive sign language poetry workshop broadens horizons of expression and explores beauty of the medium, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

"In the flowing sands, I seek my own voice. Calling out to life: I love you, myself." This poem was by Wang Yiming, a performer and blogger with hearing loss.

She wrote the poem at an inclusive poetry workshop, in which most participants had hearing loss, that was hosted by the Beijing Body On&On Cultural Exchange Center and Sign Alley.

Wang says that the inspiration for the poem came from the interactive icebreaker exercises at the start of the workshop, where the participants and the instructor gathered in a circle, moved their fingers in the air, and then massaged the people next to them.

"I felt I could see sands shifting to vibrating sounds in a deserted area, forests, mountains, rivers, the sun, clouds, blue sky … Endless beautiful images of nature unfolded in my mind. I've never felt so carefree, comfortable or relaxed," Wang says.

"In that wondrous space, I truly felt that life comes from the Earth or nature. Although our lives may not be perfect, they deserve to be valued and cherished."

After the interactive exercises, the participants sat around a table and introduced themselves, describing the feeling of giving and receiving a massage, and then engaged in a series of poetry collage exercises, with each participant writing down a noun, verb or adjective and then passing it on to the next person, and the sixth person arranging the five words into a verse.

The last and main part of the workshop was writing a tercet (three-line) poem. As most of the participants were deaf or hard of hearing, the poems were presented in sign language in front of a camera, and participants without hearing loss were taught how to sign their poems.

Theater artist, writer and curator Ai Kuo was the workshop's instructor. He says that to provide the participants with an experience that would involve different senses, he condensed his previous workshops.

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