Metaphor in sign language poetry

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This chapter is concerned with the relationship between the visual modality ofsign languages and metaphor in signed poetry, where poets use highly iconicdevices to create metaphors in new and ingenious ways. Sign language poetry isprized for its highly visual signing, ‘showing while telling’ (Cuxac & Sallandre2007, 15), to present often profound moral or philosophical observations. Poetsuse exceptionally strong visual signs, which could be considered the most directmethod of linguistic communication, to present the familiar in an unfamiliarway for their audiences. Drawing upon examples from British Sign Language(BSL) poems collected at, I will explorethe ways that the physical options afforded to signers by the human body affectthe choice and form of metaphors in signed poetry. By extending options availablefor signed communication in this essentially entertaining form of language,poets can communicate at several levels (with visual images, metonyms andmetaphor) at once. Although my observations relate to BSL, they should readilyextend to other signed languages as they are all embodied, visual languages.Additionally, given the highly gestural nature of the signs used in poetry, theperformance of these poets can further our understanding generally of therelationship between metaphor and gesture.


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