September 10, 2008

Skin Poems

I ran across a site when I was browsing through the nominees for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week awards. The blog is called Literary Tattoos, and it is dedicated to exactly that. People can get on the site and post a picture of their tattoo and the excerpt it refers to. I thought, “That’s interesting, I’ll bite!” I was in no way prepared for what I was about to see!
Maybe it’s my aversion to needles of any kind. Or maybe it’s just the idea of making my thigh look like a page out of a book. It might even just be the fear of never being able to correct a grammatical error once it’s been etched. But, I really cannot fathom wanting to do this.

Some aren’t even crazy long, they are just in the oddest places.

The most popular were Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s elvish which kind of made sense to me since they have cult followings, but there were some surprises. Like poems by E.E. Cummings, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Who would have thought? I never knew these would be popular as tattoo subjects. Once I got over the initial “ouch!” knee-jerk reaction, I started to think. What was it about these specific excerpts that would prompt people to tattoo themselves with them? Are there words that I live by that I would really want to carry around with me forever on my skin? The short answer is no way!

These are some that are pictures, representing words.

Perhaps if my fleshy tablets were a bit larger and less nerve-ridden, I might consider it. But, alas, I cannot turn the page of my back, leg, arm, neck, or ankle. I think I’d much rather carry a notebook of quotes that were meaningful to me than make a statement on my collarbone or shoulder blades. And anyway, how could I even read it? I guess I wouldn’t feel comfortable having to turn my back on myself to read my most beloved piece of literature. Besides, it would always be backwards in the mirror.

I suppose the point of tattooing yourself with words is not so that you can read them. It’s more to make a statement about yourself. It’s for others to read and understand more about who you are. It’s a symbol—a symbol of devotion, even discipleship. So although it takes courage and commitment to get literarily inked, for me, I think I will stick to other forms of expression. My symbols will not be ones that I carry around in my skin, but rather in other places, seen and unseen, such as my heart or my pocket or my computer.


brittani c. said...

It's just another example of how weird and nutty literature lovers/English majors/editors/writers/prescriptivists, etc. all are! I admit, we are strange people.

Angiegirl said...

True. Although, I have to admit, the last line of Ulysses below that girl's collarbone is pretty sweet. :)