Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Word Made Flesh -- c.anne.gardner

I stumbled on this video book trailer over on, which is the promotional site for a new book highlighting the trend of Literary Tattoos.

The Word Made Flesh - book trailer from Tattoolit on Vimeo.

I am sure non-tattoo people are wondering: What's a literary tattoo? Well, in a literal sense, it means getting your favourite author's words tattooed to your body. In a more figurative sense, it could mean any artistic interpretation of those words or perhaps even an illustration from your favourite children's book. I've seen some people even get portraits of their favourite authors. Poe always looks good in a tattoo portrait. However, it's not really a new trend. People have been getting inspirational words tattooed to their bodies at least as long as I have been getting tattoos, which is going on twenty plus years now.

I've been drawing on my body probably as long as I have loved the written word. Of course, I wouldn't confess to either when I was younger. I made a fuss when my step-father made me read the classics, and when I drew on myself, I made sure no one could see it, lest I get grounded along with the lecture about how I was going to poison myself.

Now at forty-five years old, I openly confess my love of literature, including the ole stodgy classics, but sadly, I don't always openly confess my love of tattoos, especially if I am in mixed company. When I first starting debating the idea of a tattoo, I heard all the crap in the world about it via friends and family: Nice men won't want to date you. You won't ever get a proper job. When you get older, you will look like a circus freak... Yup, I have heard it all, and while there is "some" validity in those statements, getting tattooed does not automatically condemn you to a life of Helga the dungeon master or Lolita the biker gang bitch. I married a nice man, he doesn't have a single tattoo, and I have been able to sustain a career in a very conservative environment working with high-level executives without anyone being the wiser. So you don't have to change your name to "skank." Not if you think about what you are doing as an art form and treat it that way. I knew I would someday, possibly, probably have to steer the course towards a mainstream career if I wanted to pay a mortgage and do all those other responsible things adult people do, so when I contemplated getting my first tattoo at nineteen, I was very conservative in my approach. The anarchist in me got what it wanted, but I made sure the tattoo couldn't be seen if I didn't want it to be seen. I have followed that tattoo philosophy since then and have been able to enjoy the artistic expression to the tune of fifteen tattoos and counting, including a large back-piece I just had finished over vacation. I do mean my entire back. To look at me in my business suit from 9-5, one wouldn't think it of me, and most people are surprised when they find out how many I have and how big they are. See, tattooing is like writing for me, it's a very personal thing, and while I love explaining to other artists why I wrote about a particular something in one of my novellas or what this particular tattoo imagery means to me, I am not always ready to drop my clothes for the general public. Because some people just don't "get it."

I got into a discussion over on Facebook when someone a friend knew got the Chinese character for "Honor" tattooed to them, and yet, they aren't Chinese. They wanted to know why the person just didn't get the word "honor" tattooed instead. Therefore, I had to run it down for this friend of mine in art terms. Sometimes we can be literal and sometimes we can't or don't want to be. Real writers know this. Sometimes we can just say what we mean, and sometimes we need to use imagery in the form of a metaphor to get the effect we desire. See Spot Run might be to the point, but it lacks finesse. Anything you contemplate putting permanently on your body should have a bit of finesse. It's a visual interpretation of who you are, and I don't think it should be taken lightly.

Where is this article going? Nowhere, really. I just wanted to share the link to the book, share my love of the art form, and I wanted to discuss how hard-pressed I would be to choose a specific author's words for a tattoo. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of words tattooed to my body. I have Logos and Epignosis in Greek tattooed to my arm. Both are from the Bible, but both are also from a much older Greek philosophical order I subscribe to. Logos just happens to be the title of one of my books, as well, which was convenient. On my back, I have a bit of verse in Elder Futhark next to a very large tree with a snake and an apple. I know people who have scripture tattooed to their bodies, and I know people who have the words of Poe and Shakespeare. If I took all the dog-eared pages of all the books I have read in my lifetime and used those words, I would be covered in prose from head to toe.

So, my fellow writers and artists out there ... do you have tattoos, and if so, were any of them inspired by a book you loved?

Read the interview with Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor over on Mediabistro here.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

No comments: