Aspects of BSL poetry
A social and linguistic analysis of the poetry of Dorothy Miles
The British Sign Language poetry of Dorothy Miles is a major contribution to the canon of BSL poetry. This paper considers her work as an example of “oral poetry”, in the tradition of other oral (i.e. unwritten poetry). Following definitions of oral poetry primarily from Finnegan (1977), I explore the degree to which Miles’ BSL work may be considered “oral” from the perspective of composition, transmission and performance, and linguistic structure. Although there are ways in which BSL poetry does share similarities with other spoken language “oral” poetry, the unique relationship between sign language and spoken language creates situations in which the BSL poetry is unlike either oral or written poetry.
Keywords: Poetry, British Sign Language, foregrounded language, oral poetry
Published online: 15 August 2002