For our inaugural #PTStomps post, we are delighted to share a protactile poem (video and description available below) as well as a companion poem in English from the incomparable John Lee Clark, an author, an instructor, and a mentor trainer with DBI.
Video description from the artist: "Hello! My name is John Lee Clark. I’m a DeafBlind poet. This is a description of a Protactile poem I shared with two dear friends. The video shows me sitting in the classic Protactile three-way formation with Heather Holmes sitting to my left and Jelica Nuccio sitting to my right. Our right knees are pressed against each other, and our left knees give warmth and presence by touching the next person’s flank.
Throughout the performance, Heather’s right hand is on my left hand and Jelica’s left hand is on my right hand. My hands do the exact same things, in symmetry, so that they receive the same message. Their other hands rest together on my knee. From time to time, they react to my poem by squeezing my leg.
I note to them the title of the poem, “The Rebuttal.” Before beginning, I draw their hands to my chest as I take a deep breath and blow on their hands.
The poem begins. I touch their upper bodies and settle both my closed hands on their chests near where their hearts would be. My knuckles begin to rhythmically press against their chests. It is a pumping cadence. I shift my hands, where each one now has two fingers extended. Those two fingers slide and press across their chests toward their arms leading down to my knee.
After a few slide presses, my hands scoot back to their heart to do more closed-hand pumping. They fly back to where I left off the sliding presses. Back and forth, my hands pump their hearts and push the slide presses down their arms, down, down, down. Pressure builds up.
When the pumping has pushed the slide presses all the way down to their hands on my knee, my fingers hook between their fingers, fumbling.
The pumping force now pulls up along their arms. Back and forth, my hands pump their hearts and tug press against their arms, up, up, up.
When the pumping has pulled the tugging all the way back to their chests, the pulling continues past their hearts, up, up, up. The tug presses wrap around behind their necks. There, my fingers spread over the back of their heads and begin to vibrate.
The pumping is abandoned, and my vibrating hands roar back down their necks, across their chests, past their hearts, and down their arms to their hands on my knee. My vibrating hands clasp their hands, and all six hands are lifted up, vibrating, high above our heads. A pause, the vibrating ceases. I slowly bring all six hands back down to my knee. A pause. The poem is finished."
A Counterpart Poem In English
"The Protactile poem has an English counterpart. This is not a translation, but rather a parallel poem. The English parallel itself is an erasure of a problematic poem written in 1835 about Julia Brace. The erasure inspired the composition of the Protactile poem."
an erasure of Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s “On Seeing the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Girl, Sitting for Her Portrait”
Guide, passion, catch what
Hath no speech. Unknown
Joys, power, and meditation’s
Unfolding sky. Feeling draws
Heart and wildering language
Still without speech to
Mind. Philosophy fails to
Sway this future child
Protactile Language Interpreting National Education Program Research and Resource Center with Deaf communities (RRCD)
Richard Woodcock Education Center
Western Oregon University
345 N Monmouth Ave
Monmouth, OR 97361
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