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Poem: "Lyrical Gestures" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Lyrical Gestures"
This poem came out of the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "disability" square in my 8-29-13 Wordsmith Bingo card. This poem belongs to the series Walking the Beat.


"Lyrical Gestures"


Chrysta had known Dale and Kelly
long enough to understand that
Dale loved folk singers
while Kelly wasn't as fond of them --
and she'd heard the story about the mime
even though she hadn't been in the park --

but Chrysta was still more
Kelly's friend than Dale's,
so it caught Dale by surprise
when Chrysta came bouncing up to her
at the farmer's market.

There's a concert at Jamaica Park,
Chrysta signed. They've booked
three different folk singers --
and a sign language interpreter!
You should ask Kelly to go.

Dale was intrigued by the possibility
of going to a folk concert with Kelly
where both of them could enjoy it.
When Kelly came back with bags
full of strawberries and sugar peas,
Dale suggested the concert
and Kelly agreed to go.

The concert was scheduled
for the next Saturday afternoon.
Chrysta went with a handful of Deaf friends
she knew from school, and Kelly
spent a few minutes chatting with them
before settling into a chair beside Dale.

The first folk singer was a guitarist,
warming up the crowd
with slow, soulful songs before
switching to something more lively.
The interpreter swayed along with him,
her slim hands gradually gaining speed.

The next set featured an Irish trio --
harp, tinwhistle, and bodhran --
with the harpist also singing.
There were drinking songs and sea chanteys
and long graceful ballads about fairies.
The interpreter kept pace with the lyrics,
but her toes tapped along with the drum.

Finally there came a duo,
a man with a fiddle
and a woman with a tambourine
who danced while she sang
songs of the open road
and the interpreter followed along.

By then it was evening,
and the shadows made it harder
to see what anyone was saying.

Dale and Kelly were not expecting
the sign language interpreter
to return for a solo --
much less what she was wearing.

"Are those LED gloves?"
someone asked behind them.

Whatever they were, they glowed,
as did the bracelets looped on her arms
and the necklaces around her throat
and the strands of colored light in her hair.

It was more like scat singing
than anything else, not so much words
as shapes repeated and flowing
through light into shadow,
eerie and beautiful.

At the end, the audience
gave her a standing ovation.

On the way home, Dale resolved
to watch for more performances
that she and Kelly could enjoy together.

* * *

Notes:

Read about the Jamaica Plain Farmer's Market.
http://www.farmfresh.org/food/farmersmarkets_details.php?market=97

Jamaica Pond is a local park used by the Jamaica Plain Music Festival.

The interpretation of folk songs is an art. More music venues are offering this service. Learn how to sing in ASL.

Luminous jewelry comes in many variations including glow sticks and LED. The LED gloves are also real, and while I haven't seen anyone doing this exact act, it was easy to extrapolate from other twilight shows and sign performances that I have watched.

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7 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: February 18th, 2014 06:39 am (UTC) (Link)
WOOOO! I love song-signing... did I remember you're familiar with Judi Miller? Several people out here have picked it up... the idea of the gloves is way cool.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> WOOOO! I love song-signing... <<

I do too.

>> did I remember you're familiar with Judi Miller? Several people out here have picked it up... <<

judifilksign is much fun.

>> the idea of the gloves is way cool. <<

Thank you! Who knows, maybe someone will try it. I suspect they're too bulky for complex signs. Now if gloves could be made from the more supple fiber-optic cloth, as dresses are -- or glow-in-the-dark cloth -- that might be easier to pronounce.
From: technoshaman Date: February 18th, 2014 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Glow-in-the-dark (or UV-sensitive) is *easy*. A pair of parade gloves, available at any costume store or via mail-order, and appropriate fabric paint.

Now... the other trick is, figuring out how to give glowing fingers definition. Regular fingers have shadows between them that give them definition... I'm kinda thinking just a stripe down each digit, and some sort of treatment for the palm and back of hand so that you can tell the difference...

And you're going to need enough light anyway for the interpreter's face; the expression, I'm given to know, is a very important part of the signing...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> Glow-in-the-dark (or UV-sensitive) is *easy*. A pair of parade gloves, available at any costume store or via mail-order, and appropriate fabric paint. <<

If you want it to be fully mobile, glow well, and last more than a few minutes, it's likely to take more effort. Fabric paint tends to be stiff and it will flake if you force it.

>> Now... the other trick is, figuring out how to give glowing fingers definition. Regular fingers have shadows between them that give them definition... I'm kinda thinking just a stripe down each digit, and some sort of treatment for the palm and back of hand so that you can tell the difference... <<

Yes, I don't think it would be necessary to illuminate the entire hand, but rather enough of it to show the shape of words.

>> And you're going to need enough light anyway for the interpreter's face; the expression, I'm given to know, is a very important part of the signing... <<

I assume that's what the glowing necklaces were for.

However, there are different considerations when you start looking at linguistic art like this, compared to ordinary conversation. It's like the difference between conversational sign and sign-singing. Some of the rules change.

As a linguist, I'd be asking, what's going to get lost in a low-light environment, and how can that information be transferred into the forms that remain? Conversely, what are you gaining? This is part of what got me thinking in terms of scat singing, which is about sound and feeling, rather than information. It can have words or parts of words in it, but it's not the same kind of data-dense message as a regular song.

In the dark, you're losing fine dexterity, subtle motions, and some facial expression. You're emphasizing large-scale motions. You're gaining things like light trails and diverse colors, maybe even blinking, depending on the illumination media chosen. One thing facial expression affects is the connotation and emotion. Those are easily suggested, at least in broad groups, by color. A song about passion might be lit in red; a song about sorrow might be lit in blue.

Of course, if you're composing from scratch, you can also choose words that carry well in your current medium. Lyricists learn not to write tongue-twisters by accident, to create songs that are easy to sing and that sound good. Writing lyrics for a lit-glove song would logically require choosing signs that depend on large motions rather than subtle poses or facial expressions. Those signs are like words that make great rhymes -- the ones ending with long flowing vowels: show, fray, high, sea, blue, etc. You'd want to avoid words that are distinguished from similar-looking signs only by small markers. Lots of representational signs would stand up well in this context, because they bear some resemblance to their meaning.
siege From: siege Date: February 19th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

See my comment below on EL wire.
siege From: siege Date: February 19th, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not just LEDs!

I like LEDs -- but to get basically the same effect as chemiluminescent (chemical-based light-up) bracelets and tubes, but battery powered, you need EL (electroluminescent) wire.

EL wire is basically what people used to think of when the word "cyberpunk" came up: TRON-style decorative lines of light.

Here's a Google Image Search for "el wire", showing a lot of interesting projects using this material, including clothing and other wearables. It's often used in tricked-out computers and vehicles for decorative lighting as well.

One particularly clever use of EL wire is in this child's costume of a stick figure.

I imagine that gloves with EL wire on them would be just as visible in the dark as gloves with LEDs in the fingers; but since you can outline the fingers more clearly (instead of long glowing blobs of brightness), they might be more readable for a sign-language user.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 26th, 2014 11:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not just LEDs!

>> I like LEDs -- but to get basically the same effect as chemiluminescent (chemical-based light-up) bracelets and tubes, but battery powered, you need EL (electroluminescent) wire. <<

Wow, that stuff looks awesome.

>> I imagine that gloves with EL wire on them would be just as visible in the dark as gloves with LEDs in the fingers; but since you can outline the fingers more clearly (instead of long glowing blobs of brightness), they might be more readable for a sign-language user. <<

That's a good idea. It would probably work better, although it might take some experimentation to figure out what pattern would perform the best.
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