How to Communicate

How to Communicate

by John Lee Clark
How to Communicate

How to Communicate

by John Lee Clark


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Winner of the 2023 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry
Longlisted for the 2023 National Book Award for Poetry

A stunning debut from an award-winning DeafBlind poet, “How to Communicate is a masterpiece” (Kaveh Akbar).

Formally restless and relentlessly instructive, How to Communicate is a dynamic journey through language, community, and the unfolding of an identity. Poet John Lee Clark pivots from inventive forms inspired by the Braille slate to sensuous prose poems to incisive erasures that find new narratives in nineteenth-century poetry. Calling out the limitations of the literary canon, Clark includes pathbreaking translations from American Sign Language and Protactile, a language built on touch.

How to Communicate embraces new linguistic possibilities that emanate from Clark’s unique perspective and his connection to an expanding, inclusive activist community. Amid the astonishing task of constructing a new canon, the poet reveals a radically commonplace life. He explores grief and the vagaries of family, celebrates the small delights of knitting and visiting a museum, and, once, encounters a ghost in a gas station. Counteracting the assumptions of the sighted and hearing world with humor and grace, Clark finds beauty in the revelations of communicating through touch: “All things living and dead cry out to me / when I touch them.”

A rare work of transformation and necessary discovery, How to Communicate is a brilliant debut that insists on the power of poetry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324074793
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/17/2023
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 159,513
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

John Lee Clark is an award-winning writer and Protactile educator. He has received the Krause Essay Prize and a National Magazine Award for his prose, and the Minnesota Book Award for his poetry collection How to Communicate. A 2021–2023 Bush Fellow, he lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with his partner, the ASL Deaf artist Adrean Clark, their three kids, and two cats.

Table of Contents

Author's Note 11

I Slateku 13

II Pointing the Needle

Line of Descent 23

On My Return from a Business Trip 25

Excessive Force 26

Trees 27

An Honest Man 28

Knitting 29

Rebuilding 30

Clamor 31

Cubist Statue 32

Three Squared Cinquains 33

A Funeral 34

My Friend He 35

III The Fruit Eat I

The Diagnosis 40

The Rebuttal 41

The Transition 42

The Interaction 43

The Gift 44

The Mission 45

The Manual 46

The Culmination 48

The Valediction 49

IV Who You

To Ask 53

It Is Necessary 55

Mrs. Schultz 57

Etienne de Fay 59

The Politician 61

Old Deaf Joke 63

Goldilocks in Denial 65

The Bully 67

Nicholas Saunderson 70

At the Holiday Gas Station 72

V Translations

Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner: Need 75

John Maucere: The Friend 76

Patrick Graybill: Memories 77

Noah Buchholz: The Moonlight 78

John Lee Clark: The Rebuttal 80

Oscar Chacon: The Lumberjack Story 82

Rhonda Voight-Campbell: Solace 84

VI How to Communicate

A DeafBlind Poet 87

Pearl 88

I Would That I Were 89

Oralism 90

Pass 91

Order 92

I Promise You 93

Morrison Heady 94

Sorrow and Joy 95

Spread 96

Treasure 97

Approach 98

Self Portrait 99

How to Communicate 100

Acknowledgments 101

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