Notes on “Scrollwriter”

Captions provided. Watch in high definition. Watch the companion poem at

Image description: Eric Epstein, a white young man with shaved hair, wearing a green T-shirt. The background is a whiteboard that lists the following: “(line 1) Title: Scrollwriter (line 2) Characters: George Veditz, Narrator (line 3) Setting: Movie Theater? Archives? 1913 – Present (line 4) Topic: Interacting with a filmstrip (line 5) Theme: Transcending Earth, beauty of sign language (line 6) Tone: Awestruck.” He is signing “TITLE.”

Transcript: [Eric, a white man, is standing in front of a whiteboard] The poem’s title “Scrollwriter” resonates with the prophets in ancient times who transcribed godly or heavenly visions onto sacred scrolls to be preserved over generations. For example, the Torah in Judaism or the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered to be valuable in Christianity. So it is with this poem, where American Sign Language is transcribed by George Veditz, who filmed a collection called “Preservation of Sign Language” in 1913, which is of great value. Reading the filmstrip is likened to holding a sacred scroll. In the opening of the poem, Veditz envisions heaven and annotates the vision on a filmstrip, which does three things at the same time: using sign language, going to the future, and physically unrolling from the film reel. Then, the narrator holds the film reel in sheer amazement and lays claim to heaven. The revelation of the scroll may have taken place in a movie theater or in some museum’s archives, where the narrator searches through boxes in the darkness to find the scroll. That ties in with the topic of the poem, which involves interacting with a filmstrip. In the beginning, the prophet Veditz’s scroll is processed in a series of flashing images, projecting to a brighter future. In the end, the narrator discovers the very scroll after many years and finally understands heaven. The poem invokes two major themes: transcending Earth by spiritually advancing past ordinary experience. The other theme is the beauty of sign language and its power in ascent. The tone is generally awestruck, as the narrator expresses amazement at how Veditz skillfully transcribed his vision from long ago.

Major disclaimer: This video is a work in progress.

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