Listening through the Bone

Collected Poems

By Willy Conley

Categories: Literature / Poetry / Literary Studies
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781944838416, 146 pages, November 2018
Ebook : 9781944838423, 126 pages, November 2018
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This poetry collection examines life cycles, the natural world, and the author's experiences as a Deaf individual, in a uniquely irreverent yet poignant style.


Book Trailer



I don’t write "with the ear" as most poets do, but with the eye. As Deaf people are apt to do, we become attuned to our world through tactile means, listening through the bone for vibrations, sensing shifts in air currents, recognizing wafting odors, observing fluctuations and reflections of light and movements in the water.

In Listening through the Bone, Willy Conley bears witness to life’s moments and renders them into poems that are at once irreverent and tender. His poetry examines life cycles, the natural world, and his experiences as a Deaf individual. It is presented in five parts:

  • Inaudibles
  • Existentials
  • Quizzicals
  • Irrevocables
  • Environmentals

​​      Conley’s thoughts on the banal and the bizarre include translations of poetry from American Sign Language to English. His identity as a Deaf poet lends a strong visual aspect to his work. This collection is accompanied by the author’s photographs, including “watergraphs” that reveal inverted images reflected in pools of water.


Willy Conley is a professor of Theatre and Dance in the Department of Art, Communication, and Theatre at Gallaudet University.



"From the introduction to its final imagery-eliciting poem, Listening Through the Bone by Willy Conley creates a powerful connection between hearing and deaf individuals...a wonderful read, suitable for any book club or as a welcome addition to any coffee table collection, yet it would fit equally well into a deaf culture or deaf education course."

— Michelle A. Gremp, "Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education"

Advance Praise

“A delightful and delicious smorgasbord of words worth a thousand pictures and pictures worth a thousand words. These poems are playful, smart, humorous, often heartbreaking, and always accessible. Conley is a poet with the stuff to win readers over to poetry; he has an eye and a voice that are able to capture the essential moment, make it sing, dance, and do cartwheels and prestidigitations.” 

“As Willy Conley states in his introduction to Listening through the Bone, his lovely poems are ‘imagistic, clear, and precise.’ His superb work is deeply satisfying in so many ways. Conley vividly captures the nuances of human interaction and its striving, the cadences of nature's complex beauty and symbolism, as well as the larger, more philosophical, questions of life. I recommend this fine collection of poems heartily; it will always resonate in my bones, as well.”