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Giving away my babies…
My name is Donna Williams and I am a poet. I create poems in both sign language and English, and I lovingly craft them. I start with an idea, build it up, and when I’m happy (this can take a while) I unleash them on a sometimes unexpecting audience. Speaking as a happily childless singleton, with the exception of my cat, my poems are my babies.
I can be quite obsessive; to paraphrase Byron: I spent the morning deciding to take out a sign. Then this afternoon I put it in again. I really, really care about my poems. I used to get terrible stage fright before performing my poems, but now I love it, seeing the audience reaction and getting feedback, finding out what they thought.
Even so, I still get the nerves before performing my sign language poetry to an audience – will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they understand it?
I think that’s normal enough, and I have sometimes wondered what my poem would look like in another language. Again, probably normal enough.
But then, someone asked my permission to take one of my beautiful, lovingly crafted poems, and give it to a bunch of artists, some of whom don’t even know sign language, just to see what would happen.
I said yes.
I had second thoughts when she said she wasn’t going to give any of them a transcript of the poem unless they asked – how could they appreciate the poem if they didn’t understand it? But then, as she explained, she wanted them to take the poem however they wanted. At face value, with or without a transcript, their choice, and just see what, if anything, it inspired them to create.
And I’m fascinated. I may be a bit of an art pleb in that I know what I like – and I like art that actually looks like what it’s trying to represent. But how do you represent a sign language poem? It’s hard enough trying to transcribe one into English. How the heck do you express it in art? I wanna know.
And for that reason, I can’t wait to see what happens, and what these artists create. I can’t promise I’ll like it, but this project isn’t about pleasing me as the poet. It’s about Art.
I love the idea of this project, it has my wholehearted support and I’ll be first in the queue at the gallery to see what all these artists made out of my poem!
But you’d better look after my baby.