Unbound Edition Press to Publish Raymond Luczak’s Bestiary in English and ASL Gloss

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Unbound Edition Press today announced it will publish a collection of poetry in English and American Sign Language (ASL) gloss by the prolific Deaf and gay poet, playwright, and filmmaker, Raymond Luczak. He has authored or edited more than 20 works. Luczak’s ASL gloss combines English words and ASL idioms in a poetic sign order.

Animals Out-There W-i-l-d: A Bestiary in English and ASL Gloss, scheduled for release in April 2024, is a translingual exploration of how to classify the natural world in ways understandable across Deaf and hearing populations. It also unflinchingly addresses the discrimination and banishment to the wild that many Deaf people have experienced across cultures and history.

“Three distinct elements intersected in creating this work,” said Luczak. “I became more aware of the impact that growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had on me. Bestiaries have long fascinated me because they attempt to find some discernible order in the world. And, I had been exploring the use of ASL gloss in my poetry. As a Deaf poet who writes in English and performs in ASL at readings, I had to create my own system of ASL gloss to deliver my work. Once I hit on the idea of creating a bestiary of animals found in Michigan’s UP, it made perfect sense to use ASL gloss to describe them.”

The collection, featuring 49 poems, presents each piece in English on one page and its ASL gloss version on the facing page. The resulting poetic pairs capture the nuanced, interpretive mind of a Deaf person working to understand and be understood.

“Raymond’s collection took our breath away,” said Patrick Davis, publisher at Unbound Edition Press. “It is entirely original in form and, still, universal in theme. We all want our voices heard, for there to be some comforting order in the chaotic world.”

Luczak, who is also an accomplished book designer, will assist in the layout of the collection. “How ASL gloss gets rendered on the page has important implications for its understanding,” Luczak said. “There is a precision to the grammar of the gloss, whether delivered when signing or when reading it.” One poem from the collection, “Chipmunk,” rendered in English and ASL gloss, reveals the delicate balance between the two versions:

in Englishin ASL gloss
one bit me
when I was five
at Bay Cliff Health Camp
I have no recollection 
of how I extended 
my finger
even now
years later
their brown eyes 
still peer at me
from the side
asking if that family story 
about me 
was indeed true
me age five
B-a-y C-l-i-f-f Health Camp
c-h-i-p-m-u-n-k {bite-my-finger}
happen how 
not remember
years later
still {them} eyes brown
ask-ask each-other
family story relate-to me
true-biz happen ??

Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of many books, including Lunafly: Poems, A Quiet Foghorn: More Notes from a Deaf Gay Life, and Compassion, Michigan: The Ironwood Stories. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. More about him can be found at www.raymondluczak.com

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