Notes on “To My Mute Muse”

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: To My Mute Muse (line 2) Characters: Poet,
Alice Cogswell, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (line 3) Setting: American School for the Deaf, 1817-Present (line 4) Topic: Observing the statue (line 5) Theme: Back to the roots (line 6) Tone: Reverent.” He is signing “ENCOURAGE.”

Transcript: [Eric, a white man, is standing in front of a whiteboard] The poem “To My Mute Muse” brings to mind the ancient times where Greek sculptors, painters, and poets appealed to the nine goddesses, collectively called the Muses for their artistic inspiration and creativity. It is the same with this poem, but the Muse is deaf: Alice Cogswell. She went to the American School for the Deaf when it was founded in 1817. There, she met other deaf people and American Sign Language grew thanks to their contribution. In honor of Alice, Daniel Chester French sculptured her standing next to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who was one of the founders of American School for the Deaf. There are two places that have that sculpture: Gallaudet University and American School for the Deaf. The poem takes place in ASD where the poet walks on the lawn lined with two rows of trees. The poet gazes in astonishment at the statue when Alice comes to life and retells her experience at American School for the Deaf and how ASL was born there from deaf people. Then, Alice says, “Your ASL poems started here. This is your home.” The poet is instantly inspired, which points to the theme of going back to the roots. The tone is reverent, indicating a deep respect and gratitude to Alice, who never ceases to inspire.

Major disclaimer: This video is a work in progress.

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