D-PAN Interview: Peter Cook – Poet & Storyteller

My name is Peter Cook, name sign (pulling pony tail). I’m a Poet, Storyteller, Comedian, Teacher, Cook…everything! I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, professionally. Really…honestly, I didn’t grow up signing. When I was 19 at college, NTID is when I started to immerse myself with ASL. I love writing poetry, but to turn it into ASL…I had to start there. I met a lot of people and somehow started up an organization, “The Flying Words Project”. With hearing and Deaf coming together with signed performances. We started traveling New York and then expanded around the U.S. and other countries, all coming together to support ASL poetry…literature. Since then it’s been crazy busy. Why is it important in the Deaf world? For example, in Deaf culture, we “preach” and discuss – :tugs shirt: Is this Deaf? Food…Deaf (no)? Do we pray to Deaf gods? No, we don’t have that. Only recognizable strong trait…language. If the language expanded it would get more recognition and be more widespread and that’s why I strongly support that. A quote, I call “oral”, I don’t mean “talking”, no, the bigger picture – passing stories down generations. Since humans appeared on earth, there has always been that desire for expression It doesn’t matter if you make it, or express it – ideas, thoughts, feelings – Deaf are an exception to that? Nooo. We’re the same, but in a different way. A different device of expression and I applaud that. Challenges…in the mainstream world, well they have literature, and they hear that word, they think the word LIT means writing, reading, and speaking. I challenge that. Sign Language has literature. Hearing: “But we have poetry” – Deaf: “We have poems too”. Hearing: “We have stories” – Deaf: “We have stories too” Hearing: “I write, you have rules?” – Deaf: “I have rules too.” We play with the language, you play too?” It’s the same…just a different form. My challenge to them – they think literature means hearing, spoken, written… nooo, expand to sign language plus movement, thats my challenge as a teacher. The Deaf community especially, theres a lot of people all over, a language model…you own this language You have a right to your own language, its yours. How? Encourage creativity! A story, a song, doesn’t matter expand on it, it means the culture will get strong recognition for that, plus the mainstream world will be fascinated. So then we’ll have two different support strengths, Deaf and hearing both, and that will diminish the challenges. I’d say breaking through the hearing poetry world, and them recognizing ASL poetry and story have an important place in their world. That was my biggest challenge…for example 10 years ago I went to Holland for an international poetry festival. Opening night the hearing performers took turns talking, reading, now understand, they had special program for the Deaf one afternoon. A “workshop”. Opening night, as they took turns, I was next. It was crazy, I had four hands signing everywhere. Hearing audience couldn’t hear anything, so they watched and were visually blown away. Never saw anything like it before. They were artists too, they understood what language meant. They asked a ton of questions The whole conference turned its focus to sign. People from Denmark, England, France wanted me to come One afternoon became a night, became a week, they learned, accepted it. I was enthralled. The door opened, I got my foot in before it closed. My feet have been sore since. My advice…don’t stop. Keep creating, creating, creating. Yes life changes and challenges appear, and try to knock you down, but if you love it…keep going. Don’t stop practicing. Keep going, keep going again and again and again. Show, show, show, you never know where your work will lead to. Realize, I traveled the world because my poetry, my stories brought me there. If I pushed it aside, I would have never gone, or experienced this. It’s worth it.

3 Replies to “D-PAN Interview: Peter Cook – Poet & Storyteller

  1. Thank you for interviewing Peter Cook. He is a genius! We saw him once in the Tampa area, everyone laughed so hard at his humor! Not a dry seat in the house!  🙂

  2. Bravo! I like the part when he mentions about opening the door for the people who like to learn sign language and his foot got caught in the way by the door and become sore. Now, that was funny!

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