By Derek Newman-Stille
There is a constant problem in theatres. Hearing people demand that subtitles be turned off because they are “distracting”. The privilege their comfort over any access by D/deaf or hard of hearing people. It is an act of audism and it is an act of erasure.
I decided, since I often can’t access films without subtitles, I would create poetry made exclusively from subtitles. I would use hearing erasure to comment on the lack of inclusion of those of us who need subtitles.
Although I am dealing with text on a screen (subtitles), I decided I would interact with this screen text as text, using techniques from erasure poetry to construct a narrative out of what is hidden between the text on the screen.
Since subtitle representations of non-speech sound – generally represented like this “[crashes]” – often try to make sound effects translatable for the D/deaf and hard of hearing community, I thought they would be fascinating as a primary text. I wanted to see the narrative they create in order to convey the soundscape to a D/deaf or hard of hearing audience.
In these poems, I explore mostly horror, action, and science fiction films since they tend to have the most fascinating renderings of sound as subtitles.
I included some speech subtitles from the films that I watched, while relying primarily on the renderings of sound as subtitles.
Erasure poem provided a space here to comment on audism, the entitlement of hearing audiences for films, and the erasure of D/deaf and hard of hearing experiences. These poems are meant to point out erasures, exclusions, and gaps constructed by a hearing world.
Click here to see the first poem: SubHorror
Click here to see the second poem: SubAction Under the Surface
Click here to see the third poem: Off Screen