Poetry by Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

Hearing loss can stir up some pretty strong feelings. The arts offer an outlet for those feelings. One popular medium for expressing feelings about deafness and hearing loss is poetry. Poetry has been used to express feelings, offer a different view of the world, and express a single moment in time.

A teacher showing her students different types of sign language
 SolStock/Getty Images

Many deaf poets use their art to overcome misconceptions the hearing world has about deaf culture and to show others the pride in their culture, the success of their members, and the beauty of their language.

Seeing a poem performed in American Sign Language (ASL) truly helps bring the poet's words to life. Some of these poems are classics reproduced on the web; others are new homegrown efforts. With easy access to video, it's easier than ever for deaf poetry to be displayed and enjoyed online. For the printed word, there are books collecting deaf poetry.


These classic poems are printed expressions of what it means to be deaf.

  • "You Have to Be Deaf to Understand." Few poems about deafness can surpass this 1971 classic by Willard Madsen for how well it expresses what it means to be deaf.
  • "Thoughts of a Deaf Child" by Stephen Bellitz. The last line of this modern classic will stay with you forever. It is still true even today.


  • St. Michael's Fall by Raymond Luczak includes poems about growing up deaf and Catholic in a small Michigan town in the 1970s.
  • This Way to the Acorns is a book of poems grouped by seasons of growing up and exploring the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
  • On His Deafness and Other Melodies Unheard is a collection of poems about deafness by Robert Panara, a well-known deaf educator. 
  • Deaf American Poetry is an anthology edited by John Lee Clark. 
  • The Deaf Way Anthology (volumes I and II) is a literary collection from writers who are deaf and hard of hearing. It includes poetry, a play, essays, and short stories from an international group of writers.

ASL Poetry

ASL poetry is performed and must be seen in order to appreciate the full meaning. Written or oral translations simply do not capture all of what is expressed by the poet.


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By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.