Deafblind poet Clark releases new book, How to Communicate 

Deafblind poet John Lee Clark’s new poetry book, How to Communicate, will be released in December. It has already received […]

John Lee Clark headshot

Deafblind poet John Lee Clark’s new poetry book, How to Communicate, will be released in December. It has already received praise. 

“How to Communicate brims with the talent and generosity of a living classic. And what a talent! Take, for instance, Slateku, a form John Lee Clark has created based on Braille: it is both inimitable and available to anyone. Or take his brilliant prose poems that are completely unlike any other prose poems I have read. . . . There is simply no one else like John Lee Clark and I envy the readers who discover him for the first time.” — Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic. 

“The poems in John Lee Clark’s revolutionary How to Communicate work together as a manifesto that lays bare the ways in which a society that assumes seeing and hearing as the norm views touch as suspicious, enough so to try to outlaw touch. And yet, if manifesto, also invitation: what might it mean to write ‘forward in a different direction and from a different spatial perspective,’ Clark asks, and goes on to show us, in poems of formal virtuosity, of fierce tenderness, of triumphant community. . . .How to Communicate is the steadily revelatory gift I didn’t know I’d been waiting for.” —Carl Phillips, author of Then the War 

Clark is a poet, essayist and independent scholar. He likes to describe himself as an actor in the Protactile movement. 

Protactile is a language used by deafblind people using tactile channels. Unlike other sign languages, which are heavily reliant on visual information, Protactile is oriented toward touch and is an emerging system of communication in the United States, with users relying on shared principles such as contact space, tactile imagery and reciprocity. 

Clark is a Bush Leadership Fellow, a core member of the Protactile Language Interpreting National Education Center, and a research consultant with the Reciprocity Lab at the University of Chicago. 

He was recently honored as a member of the first class of Disability Futures Fellows ad the recipient of a National Magazine Award for his essay “Tactile Art” and the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine 

His chapbook of poems, Suddenly Slow, debuted in 2008. He has edited two anthologies, Deaf American Poetry (Gallaudet University Press, 2009) and Deaf Lit Extravaganza (Handtype Press, 2013). He also has a collection of essays to his credit, Where I Stand: On the Signing Community and My DeafBlind Experience (Handtype Press, 2014). 

Clark was a featured writer at the Deaf Way II International Cultural Arts Festival, and has won grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, VSA Minnesota, the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund, Intermedia Arts Center and The Loft Literary Center. He was a finalist for the 2016 Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism. His work is included in the anthologies Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, Deaf American Prose, St. Paul Almanac, and The Nodin Anthology of Poetry. 

Clark lives in St. Paul with his wife, the artist Adrean Clark, their three boys and two cats. He works for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development as a Braille and Protactile instructor. 

Links to his latest book are at  


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