Detail View: Deaf Studies, Culture, and History Archives: Like a tear drop in some forgotten video: why study ASL poetry

Like a tear drop in some forgotten video: why study ASL poetry
Kramer, Bonnie
Cohn, Jim
American Sign Language literature
Deaf -- Poetry
ASL poetry
Bonnie Kramer is a Deaf performer and from a Deaf family. She shares the poems "Growing Up" and "Honor". She also tells the stories "Ugly Duckling", "Snake Story", and "Bad Dream" sharing deaf themes.
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Digital Publisher: 
Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT Libraries - RIT Archive Collections
ASL Literature Conference (1991 National Technical Institute for the Deaf)
Date of Original: 
Date of Digitization: 
Broad Type: 
moving image
Digital File Format: 
Physical Format: 
Dimensions of Original: 
45 minutes
American Sign Language
Original Item Location: 
Library Collection: 
Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Poetry collection
Digital Project: 
2018-2019 CLIR Grant-ASL Poetry and Literature
Catalog Record:
Catalog Record:
New York - Rochester
RIT Spaces and Places: 
Henrietta Campus
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41:04-50:57--- Bonnie Kramer comes into the frame …. Will do a couple of poems and a few stories. “Growing Up” The first story I was involved in was around 1982—at that time deaf people were saying ASL is a language—even though it was researched and proven as a language before, then creative works started popping up in ASL-stories and poems-this inspired me -when I was young I shared stories but felt embarrassed—shared alone or with friends—not with an audience. It was private, not wide open sharing. I thought about one poem “Growing Up”! The poem was about my childhood--- thought it was true I was hearing until some years ago my father who is deaf said you were born deaf, not born hearing. What!! I was born hearing! Strange! My father is deaf! At that time when a baby was born deaf parents felt upset and grieved. Deaf person is finished! English skills stink, can’t have credit card --- finish! Depressing! My deaf parents went through the grieving process and then I learned 2 years ago I was born deaf. What do I do about the poem..decided to keep the poem which I will perform now. The poem describes learning signs with deaf parents…at a deaf school playing with friends…..playing in sandbox.talks about being in a shell repeatedly…describes a black cloud when not understanding man talking whose mouth looks like an alligator’s mouth….black clouds moves closer…still doesn’t understand…thunder…. 50:58-1:04:53---Story-Deaf Duckling Gives background talk about the NJ school for the deaf and movies with no captions…excited to see movies and use imagination when there were no captions. When I arrived home my deaf siblings (I have 4) sisters and I acted out movie parts. My parents are strong readers and told stories. My mother’s rule for films—we could only watch Walt Disney movies. This story is an adaptation of the Ugly Duckling. It happened a long time ago. We are in the woods. On a lake was a white duck. The male duck said it’s taking a long time for the baby duckings to be born. The female pregnant duck said I know-- I’m tired of waiting and want the baby ducklings to hurry up and be born. The mother duck is thrilled to have baby ducklings soon and they are looking forward to it. The father duck said they have to be patient and asked whether she was hungry. She said yes and asked the father duck to get fish for her. The mother duck then started swimming and slurped some water. She sits and is impatient for the baby ducklings to be born. She preens her body and waits. She feels the egg move and out comes a baby duckling. The parent ducklings are happy and kiss. They look at the baby and think he is cute. Another egg moves and cracks open with another baby duckling. Now they have two. The parent ducks kiss and look at the ducklings. A third egg moves and a baby duckling is born. The parent ducks are excited as they watch the baby duckling swim away, and the other ducklings follow. Oh! There is one more egg left. More sitting for the mother duck! She is tired of sitting on the egg. The father duck tells her to relax and he will take care of the other baby ducklings. He swims away and she sits impatiently on the egg. The egg moves and cracks open with a funny looking baby duckling with feathers sticking up on his head and a big ball of feathers on his bottom. He starts moving and quacking. The mother duckling laughs and thinks he is different and cute especially with the ball of feathers on his bottom! This is her favorite duckling. She moves close to kiss the duckling. The duckling walks up to the water and sees his reflection, kisses himself, and the reflection becomes bigger. The mother duck laughs and moves closer to the duckling to kiss him. They notice a bird fly near them. The mother duck quacks and they look at the bird. The mother duck quacks again, puzzled with the duckling not responding. The duckling and the mother duck then test out the water which was cold. The duckling starts paddling happily in the water. The mother duck walks over to the father duck and they discuss the duckling. The mother duck says she quacks but the duckling doesn’t respond. The father duck says it’s all right, he may be slow, lazy or stubborn. He tells her not to worry. They look at their ducklings, and talk about how cute they are. The mother duck says the one with the feathers sticking up on his head is so cute! The proud parent ducks walk together, and watch their ducklings play, quack, and move together. The fourth one goes underwater, and quickly rises up to the top, spurting out water and coughing. He ducks underwater again and comes up for air paddling away. The mother duck watches him and quacks. The duckling doesn’t respond and swims away. The mother duck sees a HUGE black doctor duck paddling over to her with a regal air. The mother duck says, her duckling is cute, but when she quacks, he doesn’t look at her. He opens up his medicine bag, and takes out a sound instrument which he taps on one ear to test the duckling’s hearing. He takes out another instrument and taps it on the other duckling’s ear. He calls the parents over and tells them the duckling is deaf. The parents are upset and cry. The doctor says not to worry—there are body hearing aids that he can wear that has a harnessed box on his chest, with wires to the hearing aids. The parents are relieved and happy to know about this. The body hearing aids will not affect the duckling when he swims in the water. The parents are again happy to hear this and ask about the cost of the hearing aids. The doctor says it costs about $500.00. The parents discuss whether they can afford this, and the doctor suggests having a payment plan. They can pay $25 weekly. The parents thank him and agree with this plan. The doctor puts the heavy body hearing aids on the duckling. The duckling is upset and quacks, wondering what is going on. After the ear molds are adjusted, he hears sounds and looks around him. There are many sounds and the duckling appears anxious hearing these sounds. The doctor tells the parents not to worry, that he will get used to the hearing aids. He tells them they must put on the hearing aids every day to train the duckling to get used to the hearing aids. The parents thank the doctor who leaves and tell him they will pay him later. The father duck worked hard to earn money to pay off the hearing aids. The sad duckling was saddled with the heavy hearing aids, paddling awkwardly, and feeling different. The hearing aids affected his movements. He sees a cow eating grass and the cow looks at the duckling. He laughs and says you have an odd thing on your body. The duckling is hurt and looks away. A horse is eating and the cow tells him about the funny hearing aids on the duckling. The cow and the horse laugh and mock the duckling. The duckling is upset. A cat, licking his paws talks about the duckling’s funny hearing aids and laughs. Having been insulted (for wearing his body hearing aids), the Deaf duckling decides to run away. He walks along carrying a bag over his shoulder and walks for a while. He sees a big pond. Curious, he moves closer…there he spies a group of long necked swans, signing elegantly. The Deaf duckling is astounded at this sight…one of the swans notices him and bids him to come closer…shyly, then excitedly, he swims closer. The swan says that she before also had hearing aids but threw them away. At first the Deaf duckling said no I can’t do that. The swan confidently removed the hearing aids from the Deaf duckling and threw it up in the air revolving in circles….together they watched it fly and slowly sink underwater. Freed of the body hearing aids the Deaf duckling looks at the Swan in amazed gratitude. The swan beckons the Deaf duckling to come and fly with her to a place that has many many signing swans. Together they spread their wings and fly off into the sunset where the Deaf Duckling lived happily ever after. Today discuss hot topic, deaf people and oppression. I read this story in Reader’s Digest magazine and adapted it into ASL. The deaf know oppression—what it means. Describes a snake story….in the mountains there’s white snow falling ….can see the city’s fumes …enter a house---the wood is gone… was cold outside and I want a fire but need wood . I put on a coat, a scarf, a hat, and gloves. It was windy out and hard to see. I found some wood and see a frozen brown snake…it will die! I have an idea! Bring the snake in the house and then put it outside. Picks up the snake and wood carrying both carefully. Starts fire at home and looks at the snake. Takes off her coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. The snake starts moving – maybe it’s thirsty---it needs water so give some to the snake. Maybe it is hungry… got bread crumbs and gavesome to the snake. He ate some. Then, I see its fangs, and it bit me in the shoulder! What for? Snake answered, “you forgot I am a snake!” Moral of the story: Just because I am kind and nice to you, doesn’t mean it will be reciprocated…..The snake’s natural inclination is to bite. You cannot force the snake to be something it is not. 1:10:47-1:15:27----Story: “Bad Dream” Stories important at the deaf school. Stayed at the school---so what did we do—we shared stories. I had a bad dream when I was a young girl. I did not want to suffer alone from the bad dream, no. I had a cute teddy bear with a red heart and I loved it, liked snuggling up with it. I dreamed of a teddy bear’s one night. The dream upset me and I will share the dream. The teddy bear had open, cold eyes and no heart. It started walking like a robot and threatened to eat me. I ran. I see teddy bear go through wall ---how? Where is my teddy bear? I tried to retrieve it through the wall. I’m outside. There are trees and people hanging from trees. I see the teddy bear in the tree walking toward me. I see robot bears--an army walking towards me! No! No! No! I walk backwards, through the wall and back in my bed. I was scared in the morning. I saw the teddy bear with the heart and told my friends the teddy bear is bad and will eat you. I saw the teddy bear it trying to eat me….my friends cried and screamed ….I felt better –I’m not the only one to suffer this bad dream… all my friends suffered too…. 1:15:28—1:21:53----Poem: “Honor” This last poem really happened when I was 11 years old. It happened at a deaf school. I will never forget it. 3-4 months ago I was asked to perform. I accepted, was fine and excited ---then I remembered the accident but not ready to share---it was too painful and I pushed away the memory of it. Then I faced it and am ready to share with you the experience I’ll never forget. The sun was rising there were yellow lines on the black ribbon road and a sign saying dangerous curves ahead be careful. We were riding along….saw the sign again, and went over the bank, rolled over, and hit a tree…my eyes closed…this Sat. we had HC football games, celebrate – announce the HC queen….there was an empty seat at the stadium and the HC queen’s crown was placed there. Accident flashback. I have brothers—two deaf. My oldest brother had a dream his sister’s spirit flew upwards…She’s up there….let’s go together to meet her…come…NO!! accident flashback…my boyfriend was at the deaf school, eating breakfast…chatting with his friends. The counselor walked up, and talked to my boyfriend privately. Your girlfriend was in a car accident this morning and she died. He cried, “NO!” accident flashback. I was covered in water and mud. The ambulance came and there were people around us. My mind was screaming “HELP HELP! Please!” it was hard to breathe, and my heart was beating…..I opened my eyes. This car accident, third. First car accident, it was terrible, I was saved, second car accident, I should have died, I was saved again. Third car accident, the sun was overhead, saw puddles, trees, yellow lines on the road, the sign Dangerous Curves Ahead—be careful.
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