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Poets’ biographies


Richard Carter

Richard Carter

Richard Carter

I am a poet, storyteller, teacher and research consultant. I have been composing and performing my BSL poetry for 20 years, and I have performed at a range of events, with other Deaf and hearing poets, including the Bristol Sign Poetry Festivals (2010, 2011).

I teach poetry to Deaf adults and children across the UK, including mentoring children who have participated in the Life & Deaf project in Greenwich, London. I work at Elmfield Secondary School for deaf children in Bristol as a BSL tutor.  I am currently a research consultant on an Arts and Humanities Research Council project at the University of Bristol that explores the use of metaphor within creative sign language.  My poems have contributed to an online anthology of BSL poetry, which can be found online at the BSL Poetry Anthology

At the festival in March I want to share my poetry with the American Deaf Community, perhaps with some people who are not aware of sign language poetry because it is not taught on the curriculum at schools. I also want people who already know some ASL poetry to see something different from the UK.


Flying Words Project

Peter Cook & Kenny Lerner: Flying Words Project

Peter Cook & Kenny Lerner: Flying Words Project

‘Flying Words Project has accomplished what poets have been trying to do for several centuries now; to make their poems more visual, more embodied, more alive.  To witness the work of FWP is to witness a milestone in literary history.’ Dirksen Bauman, Professor,Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University

Flying Words Project is at once imaginative, experimental, and intense.  We are Deaf American Sign Language poet Peter Cook (I present the three dimensional imagery) and collaborator Kenny Lerner (my spoken words allow the hearing in the audience to literally see the ASL image and become lost in the movement).Together we create a moving tapestry uniquely accessible to both hearing and deaf audiences. Our collaboration started in 1984 when we began performing poetry together. We established a deaf poetry series in Rochester, NY, which led to the First National ASL LiteratureConference in 1992.

Flying Words has been featured at the Poetry Days Festival (Dzejas Dienas,) in the Latvian towns of Liepia and Riga.  We have also performed at the 36th International Poetry Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Harvard University, The People’s Poetry Gathering in NYC, Theatre de Lucernaire in Paris, and many places in between.

You can find out more about the Flying Words Project here.

Peter Cook:  I am also an internationally reputed Deaf storyteller and I teach at Columbia University in Chicago.  I love to tell stories to my son.

Kenny Lerner:  I teach History at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY and I live in the country with my wife, two children, and two dumb dogs.

You can contact Flying Words Project at Flyingwordsproject@yahoo.com


Debbie Rennie

Debbie Rennie

Debbie Rennie

I am Deaf American but have lived in Sweden for many years now, working as a freelance artist, directing, acting, making films, travelling and giving lectures and workshops on  theater and sign language poetry.  I teach deaf children theatre arts: movements, acting, poetry, and storytelling. It is so important to educate deaf kids to have bilingual language. It provides a rich education for young minds. I grew up in English and I wanted to learn Spanish but I wasn’t allowed to learn another language because of my poor English. Now, I am living in Sweden so I get many new ideas and different perspectives in my mind. Poetry in Sign Language experiments with language itself, like making movies. I feel it will be an honor to come to the Festival and share my knowledge of Poetry in Sign language and learn new things from new people including the Deaf British poets.


Paul Scott

Paul Scott

Paul Scott

I am proud of my deaf parents and relatives to pass my fluent use of BSL. I am part of  ‘art’ family. I am a crazy to play with words in strange ways.

I am collage poet to see how deaf world I live in and usually suffer in silence to explosion inside metaphor. I love to explore with strange/unique poem to expression. I collected all beautiful handshapes and non manual feature on kinetoscopes in my mind integrate with deaf world what deaf journey is like. I am independent journey to explore this Earth are greatest show in the world is our Earth to explore cultures and beautiful creatures also important of all landscapes to give me freeeeedom. Dreaming to stay wilderness in Alaska for fun.

I do more enjoy to continue study my postgrad this year to study M.Sc Deafhood.


Donna Williams

Donna Williams

Donna Williams

I am a deaf writer, postgrad student and British Sign Language poet. I started doing BSL poetry five years ago, not bad given I only became a fluent user of BSL about eight years ago.
I love Sign Language; it has allowed me to access the world in a way that speech never has, and the first time I saw SL poetry, I was hypnotised. It was beautiful, clear, expressive, and I knew I wanted to do that! It took me a little while, but I have been developing my skills and become more confident in this art form, and I am really looking forward to travelling to Philadelphia to take up the challenge of expressing my poetry to a non-BSL audience. If I can create poetry that all can access, past all language barriers, it will be worth coming across the water!

More information about Donna can found at her blog at deaffirefly.wordpress.com


John Wilson

John Wilson

John Wilson

My family come from the North East of England, but I have lived around London and the South East for many years now. I’m lucky, because in my work for a long time I have been able to use BSL professionally everyday, and to work in many areas of the arts. I’ve done lots of different kinds of work in BSL. I have acted and directed in the theatre (we won a prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a few years ago). I have translated plays by Shakepeare into BSL (and also some of the Bible). Most recently I have been leading guided tours and making presentations in BSL for some big art galleries, including the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. I have always been close to animals – I once worked as a zoo keeper – because I understand what it feels like when no-one really understands what you are trying to say. My poetry draws on imagery from the natural world which mean a lot to me. I love the US and I am really looking forward to coming to the poetry festival and being inspired by the people I meet.

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