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  • Danielle Hayden

Literary Tattoos

I have 14 tattoos altogether, many of which are bookish in one way or another: Four are of individual words (though they are words related to other topics). Three are phrases. One is a pilcrow and the other is a line drawing of a female figure, eyes downcast, reading a book.


Before I started on this tat craze, I used to look at a couple blogs like Contrariwise , Tattoolit and occasionally Fuck Yeah Literary Tattoos. The most intriguing website though, I think, was one about a project called "Skin." A writer named Shelley Jackson asked volunteers to have a single word of her story tattooed on their body, like this. The text is published nowhere else; only on people's bodies. I think it's so cool—this communal undertaking between strangers. One without context, but with intent.


Here is more information about the project. I found Jackson's final paragraph particularly captivating:


"From this time on, participants will be known as "words". They are not understood as carriers or agents of the words they bear, but as their embodiments. As a result, injuries to  the printed text, such as dermabrasion, laser surgery, tattoo cover work or the loss of body parts, will not be considered to alter the work. Only the death of words effaces them from the text. As words die the story will change; when the last word dies the story will also have died. The author will make every effort to attend the funerals of her words."

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"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there." -Rumi

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