Mar 25, 2024

Poetry Electric: ASL Slam

ASL Slam

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The ASL Slam has become a cultural brand for the Deaf poetry movement, attracting performers and audience members from all around the world. Today, the slam is primarily operated through venue shows in NYC and Orlando, museum events, corporate events, and educational collaborations. It's spoken word without spoken words—ASL SLAM is an open space for poets to perform their work in American Sign Language (ASL). As ASL SLAM's executive director Douglas Ridloff explains, ASL poetry doesn't rely on rhyming patterns or meter within auditory or written wordplay; rather, the art is "more about the movement, a visual rhyme versus an audio rhyme." Its performance is a stunning and emotionally potent artistry that connects with all audiences.

Zavier Sabio is the host of ASL Slam, a monthly gathering of poetry and storytelling in American Sign Language for the city’s Deaf community and anyone else who finds themselves at the doors of the venerated local institution. “That’s my goal, to make people from all over feel welcome in that space,” explains the show’s host, Deaf performer Zavier Sabio, through an interpreter. “[To] bridge the gap between different communities: the ASL community, the Deaf community, the hard of hearing community, the hearing community. You name it.”

Noah Buchholz is an American Sign Language (ASL) performing artist, translator, and scholar. He is a Senior Lecturer in ASL and Deaf Studies at Princeton University. He is also a Ph.D. candidate in Religion & Society at Princeton Theological Seminary. His research interests include political theology and critical disability theory. He travels internationally presenting his ASL literary works and has been involved in numerous ASL translation projects. One of his latest published works is the ASL poem “The Moonlight,” whose English translation by the DeafBlind poet John Lee Clark is published in Poetry and John Lee Clark’s book How to Communicate.

Heba Toulon: Heba is an award-winning actress, model, and writer. She is a first-generation Arab American born in Giza to Egyptian parents. She grew up in Washington, D.C., and lives in Houston.Some of the roles she’s proudest of: playing Olivia in Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Shade); Deepa, a Deaf woman fighting off an intruder in SENSES; and Fifi in The Window Washer which earned her the Best Actress Award at the 2023 Retro Avant Garde Film Festival in Cairo, Egypt. Her mission is to bring awareness and exposure to underrepresented groups without stereotypes to the screen and stage, and to tell important stories that enhance, empower, and energize while leaving the audience with a sense of connection and hope. She aims to portray and write multi-layered stories which inspire and revitalize the audience.

Anjel Piñero is known for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999) and Super Bowl LVIII (2024). Originally from Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, Piñero is a graduate of New York School for the Deaf and from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Although the Super Bowl will be the first time she’s ever performed live in front of millions of people, Piñero is no stranger to the spotlight. Along with competing in pageants, she acted in a TV episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and performs onstage. She also shares a wide
variety of content with her followers on TikTok.

Joey Caverly: Mr. Caverly was born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan. He graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Gallaudet University in 2011. Soon after graduation, he joined National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) for two years: he directed The McWilliamses, and performed in several plays, including Journey of Identity (playing the character Laurent Clerc) and A Child’s Christmas in Wales (playing the character Dylan Thomas). Since then, he has directed several plays and performed both stage and screen. He directed William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in both American Sign Language and spoken English for Community College of Baltimore County Community Theatre.

Poetry Electric 2023–2024 is made possible by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, the Howard Gilman Foundation, The John Golden Fund, and The Shubert Foundation. Additional funding from the Axe-Houghton Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

Poetry Electric


The Poetry Electric fuses music, movement, sound, and dance with the spoken word and presents artists working in a wide range of styles including beatboxing, jazz and hip-hop theatre. This series has presented over 200 emerging poets from diverse cultural backgrounds.

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