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Welcome to the Signing Hands Across the Water Festival celebrating sign language poetry in March 16th – 18th 2012 at  Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, USA.

Sign language poets from Britain and America will come together and explore this rich and beautiful art form with members of College, the Deaf Community and visitors from the wider community. The festival will include:

  • Friday evening – a “public conversation” between the British and American poets, discussing national, cultural, linguistic and personal differences in their work;
  • Saturday evening – an open performance of poems in British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL);
  • Sunday morning – a Panel discussion ‘how signed poetry works’, exploring the language and themes used in BSL and ASL poetry.
  • Additionally, on Saturday daytime there will be a workshop for fluent signers to compose signed poetry.

Signing Hands Across the Water will give College members and visitors to College a unique opportunity to discover sign language poetry in the United States and in the British deaf community where traditions, language and culture are different. All events will be fully accessible in ASL and spoken English.

The event is organised as part of the work of Rachel Sutton-Spence, Cornell Visiting Professor to Swarthmore for 2011-2012. Professor Sutton-Spence has worked on creative sign language for over 15 years, especially researching and promoting British Sign Language poetry (

The Signing Hands Across the Water Festival is made possible by the William J Cooper Foundation at Swarthmore College

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