Deaf performing artist and poet Peter Cook to lecture and perform with the Flying Words Project, November 5 and 7, 2015

Internationally renowned Deaf performing artist and poet Peter Cook will deliver a lecture and perform with his American Sign Language (ASL) poetry troupe, the Flying Words Project, in two events at Vassar College.

Cook utilizes pantomime, storytelling, acting, and movement in his performances.  LA Weekly has written that Cook has “…the most elastic facial maneuvers this side of Robin Williams.”

Cook’s lecture, “Painting in the Air: Creativity and American Sign Language,” will take place on Thursday, November 5, at 6:00pm in Taylor Hall, room 203. On Saturday, November 7, at 7:00pm, Cook and his Flying Words Project hearing collaborator and coauthor Kenny Lerner will perform in the Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium (room 212). Both events are free and open to the public.

The Flying Words Project has been performing for nearly thirty years. Cook and Lerner first write their poems in ASL and then decide how to voice them. “We figure out how to express just enough words and sounds so that hearing members in the audience can see the images for themselves,” Cook explains.

Both men have impressive backgrounds in ASL literature. Lerner teaches history of modern America at the Rochester Institute of Technology and has been the recipient of grants from the New York State Council of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Puffin Foundation and has co-authored three DVD ASL poetry anthologies. He also established a deaf poetry series in Rochester, New York that culminated in the First National ASL Literature Conference in 1992.

Cook has traveled extensively around the country and abroad with the Flying Words Project to promote ASL literature. An associate professor of ASL-English interpretation at Chicago’s Columbia College, Cook has been featured in festivals such as the Jonesboro National Storytelling Festival , Oklahoma City Winter Tales, Illinois Storytelling Festival, Indiana Hoosier Storytelling Fesval, Eugene Oregon Multi-Cultural Festival, The Deaf Way II and the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He was also featured in the film United States of Poetry.

Critical study about the Flying Words Project has appeared in the journals, Literature and Medicine and The Tactile Mind.

Cook and the Flying Words Project’s appearances are sponsored by the Creative Arts Across Disciplines Initiative at Vassar, which is generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (

Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, October 19, 2015