A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos

This is the first official post for the newly-instated “Free-For-All Fridays.”

It’s a funny coincidence.  On Tuesday Clay talked about being “Tatted Up” on his blog EduClaytion.  Of course, his story is about receiving a few temporary tattoos from his niece, but still.  Tattoos.  Major coincidence, because I’ve planning to write a blog about tattoos all week.

Let me begin by saying I don’t have any tattoos, but I am endlessly fascinated by them.  I really want one, but haven’t worked up the guts to get one.  Here’s the thing: my mother is one THOSE people.  You know the kind.  One of those people who honestly believes that anyone with a tattoo must automatically be a punk and quite probably a criminal.

When I was fourteen or fifteen years old my mother told me in no uncertain terms that, besides from the obvious things like drugs and alcohol, there were four things I was never allowed to do: die my hair an outrageous color, get body piercings (for her meaning anything besides a single ear-piercing), get a tattoo, or date a guy who owned a motorcycle.  (You can see what kind of mentality my mother has pretty easily from this list.)  And, purely by accident since I’d never said anything, these were almost all things I was interested in.  I’d thought about dying my hair purple on a number of occasions (though I have since decided that I like my hair just the way it is, thanks), I’d thought about getting an ear-cartilage piercing, I wanted a tattoo, and I loved motorcycles (though I’d rather own one myself rather than date someone who owned one).

I am twenty-six years old now.  I have never done anything of these things.  And for the most part, I’m okay with that.  But after all this time, my fascination with tattoos as remained.  As long as they are carefully planned and done by a professional, they are beautiful, expressive, and a wonderful portrayal of a person’s tastes, beliefs, etc.  But more than any other kind of tattoo, I have recently discovered a trend that I love above all others: literary tattoos.

As is true for most of the people who read this blog, words are my life.  Period.  I read, write, dream them.  I breathe them in.  Words stay with me forever.  Books that are important to me, leave an indelible mark on my thoughts, beliefs, and life.  It seems to me that have a tattoo at all gives you a permanent connection to art.  Having a literary tattoo gives you a permanent and explicit relationship with the words that have touched you, marked you.  How can could I say no to that?  So when it first occurred to me that one could get a tattoo based on a book, poem, etc., I was hooked.

I have been going through a few blogs devotedly specifically to literary tattoos, admiring and also scheming.  The two best blogs are Contrariwise and The Word Made FleshContrariwise, unfortunately, hasn’t been updated since May 2010, so I’m assuming it’s essentially been abandoned, but there are still plenty of pictures to go through and admire.  The Word Made Flesh updates with new pictures of tattoos a couple times a week.  I find myself checking back every day to see if there’s a new one yet.  The Word Made Flesh is also a book (and the creators are apparently working on a second one), that I really really want but haven’t shelled out the cash for yet.

Some of my favorites from The Word Made Flesh are (each image links back to the original post on The Word Made Flesh):

After years and years of being fascinated by tattoos, I’ve finally decided that this isn’t some passing fancy that will go away.  And I think it’s about time I finally said ‘screw it’ and get a tattoo.  So my plan is for my birthday next May, I’m going to get one.

I like to plan everything very carefully, so before I go through with anything, I want to make sure I know exactly what I want, and where I went to go to get it.  There are quite a few tattoo parlors in Houston, and I have no idea how to go about picking one.

In the mean time, I have a few ideas for tattoos I want to get.  The first, and I think strongest, choice is the words “Still Rowing” from Anne Sexton’s poem, “Rowing” in white ink.  White ink is a fairly new trend, and it looks really cool.  Here’s a couple examples (also from The Word Made Flesh):

Another idea I’m really leaning toward is a tattoo based on Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I’d love to do something with El-ahrairah and The Black Rabbit of Inle in a circle, possibly with Frith in the center, and the quote “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you” encircling them.  I’ll have to find someone who can design it for me though.  And those of you who haven’t read Watership Down are completely lost right now, but that’s okay (and if you haven’t read it, you need to.  Hmm… I think I know what book I need to blog about next now…).

There are at least a dozen other books and poems I’ve considered doing a tattoo for, but I think the two above or the most promising right now.

Okay, tattoo enthusiasts, chime in!  How many do you have?  What are they for?  What inspired them?  Etc.  And those of you who don’t have any tattoos, have you ever considered getting one, or are they just not your thing?  And if you have considered it, what kind do you want, and why haven’t you done it yet?

(Again, all images are from The Word Made Flesh, clicking on the image will take you to the original post.)