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.