The Bird's Brain Society
The Bird’s Brain Society was an American Sign Language poetry performance series founded by acclaimed Deaf poet Peter Cook in the fall of 1984 on the Rit campus in Rochester, New York. Cook named the series after a 1980 poem by Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg entitled “Birdbrain!” Jim Cohn introduced Peter Cook to Allen Ginsberg in February of 1984 during a “Deaf-Beat Summit” workshop Cohn coordinated while a student at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID).
Below are three mementos from Cook’s Bird’s Brain Society series: two fliers made by Dr. Adele Friedman who directed the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Liberal Arts program at the Rochester Institute of Technology at the time and who provided administrative support for the series, and a proposal by Jim Cohn, written on September 11, 1984, to advocate for the ASL poetry performance series to come into existence.
Flier from the second Bird’s Brain Society ASL poetry performance event, coordinated by Peter Cook, was held on 13 November 1984 in the Cellar, a student coffeehouse on the RIT campus. Featured ASL poets included were Dennis Baszynski, Peter Cook, Matthew Moore, Aileen Panzer and Chuck Struppman. Calligraphy by Dr. Adele Friedman.
Flier from the first Bird’s Brain Society ASL poetry performance event, coordinated by Peter Cook, was held on 9 October 1984 in the Cellar coffeehouse on the RIT campus. Featured ASL poets included in the original event were Dennis Baszynski, Peter Cook, Debbie Rennie and Chuck Struppman. Calligraphy by Dr. Adele Friedman.
Copy of an 11 September 1984 memo by Jim Cohn outlining the idea of an ASL poetry performance series on the RIT campus to NTID administrators and faculty.