“ It is remarkable to think that they are currently influencing the entire course of ASL Poetry through their work.”
-H-Dirksen L. Bauman, PHD
Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University

Flying Words Project

Flying Words Project is an American Sign Language (ASL) poetry troupe comprised of Deaf Poet Peter Cook and hearing coauthor Kenny Lerner.  The goal of Flying Words is probably the same as all other poets, to play with language.  As luck would have it, ASL is a language of moving pictures.  So Kenny and Peter

juxtapose imagery you can see in creating their work.

The pieces are first written in ASL.  When a poem is completed, Peter and Kenny try to figure out how the hell to voice it!  In other words, how to express just enough words and sounds so that hearing members in the audience can see the images for themselves.

Peter Cook is one of the great signers alive today.  As former Deaf Studies Chair and current Provost at Gallaudet College once said,

"It is remarkable to think that they are currently influencing the entire course of ASL poetry.... They perceptively recognize and exploit the cinematic aspects of ASL in ways that often astound the viewer.

At the same time, they incorporate some of the most ancient aspects of poetry--its embodied rhythms. Both the modern and ancient aspects of their poetry work together to produce an unforgettable  visceral and visual experience for multicultural audiences."

Much of Flying Words' vitality is due to Peter Cook.  With absolute control over every part of his body from a slight movement of an eyebrow to the large sweeping wave of a hand, Peter somehow conveys a clear image with an unexpected meaning.  Kenny's voicing provides a background  that slips in and out of the poetry tweaking the audience's view of Peter's movements so that a

visual tapestry emerges.  Thus the images come together in the minds of both the deaf and the hearing audiences who are at once separate and yet together during a performance.

Flying Words is proud of many accomplishments.  In 2008, they were given the key to The Four Admirals Bar in Liepaja, during their Latvian tour.  In 2006, they were asked to close out the weeklong Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam,

the Netherlands.  They are also the authors of two DVD' s of poetry, "Year of the Walking Dogs" and "The Can't Touch Tours."  A couple more are on the way. God knows when!!!!

As Peter Cook has written, the significance of his work as a Deaf American poet is in his recognition

that ASL poetry isn't solely about Deafness, nor is it about the oppression of Deaf Culture. "Why not turn on the poetry-engine and have it roam around country like what Ginsberg did to America with his Howl? . . . . Why not let ASL poetry be poetry?

No more, not less." This is why Flying  Words Project was created--to educate the American mainstream poetry that there is a wonderful corner in the literary field and that is called ASL Literature.

Kenny Lerner                Peter Cook

Meeting in 1984, Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner were soon invited to perform and lecture at the first National Deaf Poetry Conference in 1987, in Rochester, NY.  Their success was immediate, and lead to a five week run at the Friends & Artists Theater in Los Angeles in 1989,and invitations to perform and lecture at the Saskatchewan Writers Guild 21st  Annual Conference,” Writing:  The Future,” the Theatre de Lucernaire in Paris, France, as well as performances across the American Southwest.

In 1998, Mr. Cook and Mr. Lerner were invited to deliver the keynote performance at the Ohio State University Conference,

"Disabilities Studies in Higher Education."

A partial list of Flying Words Project performances at various theaters, colleges, and poetry houses across the country include Manhattan Theater Club, NYC, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago,

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, NYC, Cleveland Performance Arts Festival, Harvard University, Boston, Walker Art Center, Minn, Whitney Museum, NYC, Institute for Critical Thinking, Montclair   College, NJ, as well as the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, CO Springs.

Critical study about Flying Words Project has appeared in the Modern Language Association, Literature and Medicine, the Tactile Mind. An interview with FWP for NPR radio station WNYC aired on April 8, 2001, as well as Sunday Morning for CBS. Peter Cook was also the only deaf poet to be featured on the United States of Poetry: an award winning film highlighting the best of contemporary American poetry that premiered on PBS in 1996.

Information for Flying Words Project performances:

Contact; fwproject1@gmail.com