The Tattooed Poets Project: Debbie Kirk

I always like to finish up the Tattooed Poets Project on a strong note, so today's tattooed poet, the last of this year's series, is the heavily-tattooed poet Debbie Kirk.


It also happens to be Debbie's birthday today, as we check out one of her tattoos. More specifically, let's look at the top of her left arm:



This piece, complete with straight razor, brass knuckles and cherry bomb, bears a banner that proclaims "Bow to your elders, you Emo Fucks."

I mean, what more can I say about that?

In discussing which tattoo of Debbie's to use, this exchange took place:

Tattoosday: "I hesitate to use the emo one because of the language and because I'm sure people will not understand why you would get it, but that makes me want to use it more".

Debbie: "its a favorite with peeps...it has been declared the sexiest tattoo ever..."

Tattoosday: "I love tattoos but they are generally so benign nowadays, so it's nice to see one with a true fuck-all attitude."

Debbie: "Yeah, that defines me what you said right there....and why I got the tattoo. I think that single tattoo is the most ME. I can be a bit honest...which is why people like my poetry."

Where'd she get the tattoo? Debbie recalls " I just remember I got it in Venice 5 years ago from a girl who proposed to me when I told her my idea...I still tell that story. I KNEW it was good with that reaction and she was hot."
 
Debbie gave us several poems to choose from, and the one we selected, she says, is very representative of her work:


Little Frankenstein girl
 
Little Frankenstein girl
has the hands of a pianist
And the heart of a broken organ
With thorns, glass
Bats and Indian ink
Seeping thro…
Sewn together
Crookedly stitched
Like a pastel valentine heart
Filled with mismatched parts

Little Frankenstein girl
Has the right brain of a killer
Her right hand is dominant
While her left foot always faces away
Wanting to disconnect
To run
To be free

To not be part of this
Fucked up experiment
Dreamt up by
A genius dressed in rags
And chased by demons
The kind that really scratch and bite
When you are fast asleep

Little Frankenstein girl
Is not a little girl anymore
The curls in her hair
Dreaded up in the sun
Medusa in the wind

Her loud strong voice
Muffled under the stitches
That firmly binds her lips together
Bondage bringing pleasure
Only to those who wish
To keep her silent
(and they are many)

The little Frankenstein girl
Can’t count the stitches on her wrists
From all of those nights
With her right hand doing
What her left foot
Wanted to walk away from
And her not understanding
That she was never really alive
In the first place

Little Frankenstein girl
All mixed up
And
Mix matched
Returning every evening
With fresh wounds to be sewn
From another vain attempt
To be mortal for just a few seconds
Before the fall

Little Frankenstein girl
Stolen parts
Come with stolen lies
Maggots and flies.
The gravedigger, looking to make a buck
Steals her a kiss
The moistness quenches her lips
He promises more kisses tomorrow
She scurries home
Knowing full well
She’s damned to a life of stolen kisses
And malfunctioning hearts
that spit in the moonlight.

~ ~ ~
Debbie Kirk has published 6 chapbooks and been in 12 anthologies and hundreds of print and online zines. She lives in Santa Cruz with her dog Dr. Gonzo.  She has a website she rarely updates at tntkirk.com but she can be best located lurking around Facebook!  Also check out http://tntkirk.com/.

Thanks to Debbie for sharing her tattoo and poetry with us here as we close out the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday. Also, we wish her a very happy birthday today!

This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

If you are reading this on another web site other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit
http://tattoosday.blogspot.com and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Debbie Kirk

I always like to finish up the Tattooed Poets Project on a strong note, so today's tattooed poet, the last of this year's series, is the heavily-tattooed poet Debbie Kirk.


It also happens to be Debbie's birthday today, as we check out one of her tattoos. More specifically, let's look at the top of her left arm:



This piece, complete with straight razor, brass knuckles and cherry bomb, bears a banner that proclaims "Bow to your elders, you Emo Fucks."

I mean, what more can I say about that?

In discussing which tattoo of Debbie's to use, this exchange took place:

Tattoosday: "I hesitate to use the emo one because of the language and because I'm sure people will not understand why you would get it, but that makes me want to use it more".

Debbie: "its a favorite with peeps...it has been declared the sexiest tattoo ever..."

Tattoosday: "I love tattoos but they are generally so benign nowadays, so it's nice to see one with a true fuck-all attitude."

Debbie: "Yeah, that defines me what you said right there....and why I got the tattoo. I think that single tattoo is the most ME. I can be a bit honest...which is why people like my poetry."

Where'd she get the tattoo? Debbie recalls " I just remember I got it in Venice 5 years ago from a girl who proposed to me when I told her my idea...I still tell that story. I KNEW it was good with that reaction and she was hot."
 
Debbie gave us several poems to choose from, and the one we selected, she says, is very representative of her work:


Little Frankenstein girl
 
Little Frankenstein girl
has the hands of a pianist
And the heart of a broken organ
With thorns, glass
Bats and Indian ink
Seeping thro…
Sewn together
Crookedly stitched
Like a pastel valentine heart
Filled with mismatched parts

Little Frankenstein girl
Has the right brain of a killer
Her right hand is dominant
While her left foot always faces away
Wanting to disconnect
To run
To be free

To not be part of this
Fucked up experiment
Dreamt up by
A genius dressed in rags
And chased by demons
The kind that really scratch and bite
When you are fast asleep

Little Frankenstein girl
Is not a little girl anymore
The curls in her hair
Dreaded up in the sun
Medusa in the wind

Her loud strong voice
Muffled under the stitches
That firmly binds her lips together
Bondage bringing pleasure
Only to those who wish
To keep her silent
(and they are many)

The little Frankenstein girl
Can’t count the stitches on her wrists
From all of those nights
With her right hand doing
What her left foot
Wanted to walk away from
And her not understanding
That she was never really alive
In the first place

Little Frankenstein girl
All mixed up
And
Mix matched
Returning every evening
With fresh wounds to be sewn
From another vain attempt
To be mortal for just a few seconds
Before the fall

Little Frankenstein girl
Stolen parts
Come with stolen lies
Maggots and flies.
The gravedigger, looking to make a buck
Steals her a kiss
The moistness quenches her lips
He promises more kisses tomorrow
She scurries home
Knowing full well
She’s damned to a life of stolen kisses
And malfunctioning hearts
that spit in the moonlight.

~ ~ ~
Debbie Kirk has published 6 chapbooks and been in 12 anthologies and hundreds of print and online zines. She lives in Santa Cruz with her dog Dr. Gonzo.  She has a website she rarely updates at tntkirk.com but she can be best located lurking around Facebook!  Also check out http://tntkirk.com/.

Thanks to Debbie for sharing her tattoo and poetry with us here as we close out the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday. Also, we wish her a very happy birthday today!

This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

If you are reading this on another web site other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit
http://tattoosday.blogspot.com and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

Tattoo Society Magazine - Mastering the art of Black and Gray

Tattoo Society Magazine - Mastering the art of Black and Gray
Tattoo Society Magazine - Mastering the art of Black and Gray

Tattoo Society Magazine (Mastering the art of Black & Gray, Issue 22) [Single Issue Magazine]
Tattoo Society Magazine (Mastering the art of Black & Gray, Issue 22)

Japan's Tattoo Arts: Horiyoshi's World Vol. 1

Japan's Tattoo Arts: Horiyoshi's World Vol. 1

Japan's Tattoo Arts: Horiyoshi's World Vol. 1

This review is from: Japan's Tattoo Arts: Horiyoshi's World Vol. 1 (in Japanese & English) (Paperback)
Having read, and viewed many a tattoo magazine and book, as well as collecting many a tattoo of my own, it is hard to find a good book of tattoos that shows this many true masterpieces. This book has over 175 pages of beautiful bodysuits. Thinking of beginning a bodysuit? This is the place to begin.
Japan's Tattoo Arts: Horiyoshi's World Vol. 1 (in Japanese & English)

Tattoo Society Magazine - Limited edition a Nightmare Special

Tattoo Society Magazine - Limited edition a Nightmare Special
Tattoo Society Magazine - Limited edition a Nightmare Special


Tattoo Society Magazine (Limited edition a Nightmare Special, Issue 24 2010)

Revolver Magazine - The Tattoo Issue - The Bloody History of Hard Rock & Heavy Ink

Revolver Magazine - The Tattoo Issue - The Bloody History of Hard Rock & Heavy Ink

This review is from: Revolver Magazine (March/April 2010) (The Tattoo Issue! The Bloody History of Hard Rock & Heavy Ink! Slayer; Ozzy; Henry Rollins; Slipknot; Motorhead) (Single Issue Magazine)
This is a must have for your ink inspired collection. I collect anything & everything Henry (as in Rollins; God of the Spoken Word), & that's how I stumbled apon this gem. It's worth the price in pics alone, but the insightful articles & interviews will make you happy you discovered it.
Revolver Magazine (March/April 2010) (The Tattoo Issue! The Bloody History of Hard Rock & Heavy Ink! Slayer; Ozzy; Henry Rollins; Slipknot; Motorhead)

Juxtapoz Tattoo - Henry Lewis, Roger Gastman

Juxtapoz Tattoo - Henry Lewis, Roger Gastman

Juxtapoz Tattoo - Henry Lewis, Roger Gastman

Product Description
The second book in an ongoing series from the seminal West Coast art and culture magazine, Juxtapoz Tattoo focuses on a subject very dear to the inked hearts of its readers. Most of the featured artists came up at the beginning of Tattoo s modern renaissance in the mid 1990 s, hungry for a new approach, but steeped nonetheless in the traditions of their craft. Whether these gifted tattooists are creating a modern twist on a classic archetype, or pushing the boundaries of the future primitives aesthetic, innovation is the common goal. Featured tattooists include; Troy Penning, Alex McWatt, Brian Randolph and Chris O Donnell of New York Adorned, Scott Campbell, Daniel Trocchio, Steve Boltz, Bert Krak, Henry Lewis, Joseph Ari Aloi, Jason Schroder, Eli Quinters and more.
Juxtapoz Tattoo

Tattoo Society Magazine Issue Number 25 - Good Art for Great Artists

Tattoo Society Magazine Issue Number 25 - Good Art for Great Artists

Tattoo Society Magazine Issue Number 25 - Good Art for Great Artists
Tattoo Society Magazine Issue Number 25 - Good Art for Great Artists

Tattoo Nation: Portraits of Celebrity Body Art (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Tattoo Nation: Portraits of Celebrity Body Art (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Tattoo Nation: Portraits of Celebrity Body Art (Rolling Stone Magazine)
From Publishers Weekly
Popularized by sailors and bikers, tattoos have become indispensable fashion accessories for rockers and rappers, whose professional responsibility it is to embody exotic, outlaw primitivism to the public. Hence this coffee-table collection of photographs of tattooed celebrities culled from the pages of Rolling Stone. The portraits here, by famous celebrity and fashion photographers, are heavily weighted toward sleeveless, scowling male musicians, whose remarkably consistent tattoo tastes run to a comic book aesthetic of gothic lettering, deaths heads, dragons and babes (until they age and begin inscribing wives' and childrens' names into their flesh). Accompanying interviews and captions allow the subjects to pontificate on the personal significance of their tattoos ("Weed was the biggest part of my life at that point," muses Crazytown's Shifty Shellshock of his marijuana-leaf tattoo). While fans of the celebrities pictured here will swoon over the lush photos, the book fails to make the case for tattoos as real works of art capable of signifying something to onlookers as well as to their owners.

Product Description
Tattoos, rock and roll, and "Rolling Stone"--the ideal combination for the ultimate book on celebrities and their tattoos. "Tattoo Nation" features 100 candid and never-before seen photos and revealing interviews that chronicle the gradual emergence of this evocative art form into mainstream society via pop-culture icons.
Tattoo Nation: Portraits of Celebrity Body Art (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo

Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo


Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo
Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo
Review
... must-have for every tattoo shop … great recommendation to give to those thinking of beginning their body art journey. -- Tattoo Magazine, July, 2005
Product Description
For anyone who's considered joining the tribe of the tattooed.

This fun, fact-filled, fascinating guide includes information on choosing the perfect tattoo, finding a tattoo artist, staying health-conscious, long-term effects, and much more.
Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo

500 Tattoo Designs by Henry Ferguson

500 Tattoo Designs by Henry Ferguson

500 Tattoo Designs
Product Description
Tattoos are no longer unusual or uncommon; they are now an undeniable element of mainstream style and fashion. But tattoos are expensive and, more importantly, permanent; so choosing an image is a very big decision. Here to help is 500 Tattoo Designs, a vast reference library of popular tattoos. Neatly organized by theme, the clearly executed line drawings cover every conceivable subject area — historical and traditional to modern, from tribal imagery of native American Indians, Japanese and Chinese characters, arcane hieroglyphics to gothic skulls, Celtic amulets, and more. The book also features body positioning hints for specific designs, a discussion of color dynamics, and notes on health and safety. Whether you want to show off your design or conceal it, this book is packed with hundreds of possibilities.
About the Author
Henry Ferguson is one of the UK's leading authorities on tattoo and body art. As well as being the publisher of Body Art magazine, one of the foremost journals on body art, he co-authored (with Lyn Proctor), 'The Art of Tattoo', published by Chrysalis Books. He lives in Norfolk. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
500 Tattoo Designs

The Mammoth Book of Tattoos

The Mammoth Book of Tattoos

The Mammoth Book of Tattoos
Product Description
This collection covers all styles of tattoos from bold tribal pieces, Chines characters, and hieroglyphs to delicate air-brushed designs. Included are striking images of tattoos ranging from all-over “body suits” to individual motifs.
About the Author
Lal Hardy is the proprietor of legendary New Wave Tattoo in London, which he has operated since 1979. He has been tattooist to a roll-call of rock stars and movie actors. He lives in London.
The Mammoth Book of Tattoos

The Tattooed Poets Project: Lizzie Wann

Here, on the penultimate day of the Tattooed Poets Project, our contributor is Lizzie Wann:


Lizzie explains:
As I came into my poetic self in college, I knew I wanted a tattoo to symbolize that. My friend, Kevin, designed it for me and I carried it with me for a while. For spring break in 1993 or 1994, I went to Seattle with 4 of my best friends at the time. We happened into a cool tattoo shop and 4 of us got our first tattoos (the 5th person didn’t want one).It was great because we each got something that symbolized who we were at the moment but also who we hoped to be in the future.
Here's a closer look at this quill and ink bottle tattoo:



Lizzie shared this poem, as well:

Grace
she lives here with me
but she comes & goes as she pleases

never tells me where she’s going
never leaves a note

it’s typical that she’ll come in
just as I’m falling asleep

I catch glimpses of her sometimes
usually when there’s music

we used to be inseparable
I didn’t think she’d ever leave

now, daily happenings of my life
rarely interest her

but sometimes they do
and she’ll spend time with me

when that happens
I remember how good it feels

her company is like an avalanche of
warm towels out of the dryer

I could stay there all day

© 2010 Lizzie Wann

Lizzie Wann started reading at open mics in 1995. She soon became an integral part of the development of the San Diego poetry scene, facilitating workshops at the Writing Center, creating her own readings and producing original shows that featured poets and musicians. She earned a spot on the 1999 Laguna Beach national slam team that competed at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago of that year, and from there, helped make slam poetry become a San Diego fixture. She was on the 2000 San Diego team that went to the West Coast Regionals in Big Sur, served as coach for that same team in 2002, and co-hosted the fledgling San Diego slam, held at the Urban Grind, until 2003. Her work appears on CDs (A Wing & A Prayer and A New Leaf), in chapbooks including Familiars, Naked Wrists, and Complicated Skies and in anthologies including Comstock Review, Incidental Buildings & Accidental Beauty, A Year in Ink, volume 2, So Luminous the Wildflowers, The San Diego Poetry Annual, and Don’t Blame the Ugly Mug.  She also founded the Meeting Grace house concert series which ran from 2000-2008. One of her CD’s can be found at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lizziewann.

Thanks to Lizzie for sharing her tattoo and poem with us here on Tattoosday!


This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

If you are reading this on another web site other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit
http://tattoosday.blogspot.com and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Lizzie Wann

Here, on the penultimate day of the Tattooed Poets Project, our contributor is Lizzie Wann:


Lizzie explains:
As I came into my poetic self in college, I knew I wanted a tattoo to symbolize that. My friend, Kevin, designed it for me and I carried it with me for a while. For spring break in 1993 or 1994, I went to Seattle with 4 of my best friends at the time. We happened into a cool tattoo shop and 4 of us got our first tattoos (the 5th person didn’t want one).It was great because we each got something that symbolized who we were at the moment but also who we hoped to be in the future.
Here's a closer look at this quill and ink bottle tattoo:



Lizzie shared this poem, as well:

Grace
she lives here with me
but she comes & goes as she pleases

never tells me where she’s going
never leaves a note

it’s typical that she’ll come in
just as I’m falling asleep

I catch glimpses of her sometimes
usually when there’s music

we used to be inseparable
I didn’t think she’d ever leave

now, daily happenings of my life
rarely interest her

but sometimes they do
and she’ll spend time with me

when that happens
I remember how good it feels

her company is like an avalanche of
warm towels out of the dryer

I could stay there all day

© 2010 Lizzie Wann

Lizzie Wann started reading at open mics in 1995. She soon became an integral part of the development of the San Diego poetry scene, facilitating workshops at the Writing Center, creating her own readings and producing original shows that featured poets and musicians. She earned a spot on the 1999 Laguna Beach national slam team that competed at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago of that year, and from there, helped make slam poetry become a San Diego fixture. She was on the 2000 San Diego team that went to the West Coast Regionals in Big Sur, served as coach for that same team in 2002, and co-hosted the fledgling San Diego slam, held at the Urban Grind, until 2003. Her work appears on CDs (A Wing & A Prayer and A New Leaf), in chapbooks including Familiars, Naked Wrists, and Complicated Skies and in anthologies including Comstock Review, Incidental Buildings & Accidental Beauty, A Year in Ink, volume 2, So Luminous the Wildflowers, The San Diego Poetry Annual, and Don’t Blame the Ugly Mug.  She also founded the Meeting Grace house concert series which ran from 2000-2008. One of her CD’s can be found at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lizziewann.

Thanks to Lizzie for sharing her tattoo and poem with us here on Tattoosday!


This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

If you are reading this on another web site other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit
http://tattoosday.blogspot.com and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Gerry LaFemina

Today's tattooed poet is Gerry LaFemina. Gerry put together a narrative about his ink, which makes my job easier, and gives us a detailed view of his tattoos. Let's see what he has to say:
Photo by Joy Gaines-Friedler
"My first tattoo–I was 19, I was a punk rock kid, and I had been thinking about getting a tattoo for some time.  I had had a dream in which I had a tattoo of a skull and crossbones design in which the skull had peace symbols for eyes.  When I was shaving the next morning, I was surprised I didn’t have the tattoo.  So I called up my friend Melody, whose uncle was Tattoo Ray–one of the best tattooists on Staten Island.  She made the appointment and came with me to her uncle’s house.
            In New York at the time (the mid 1980's), tattooing was still illegal: most tattoo artists worked out of their homes and their clientele was through word of mouth.  Ray was pretty famous–and I have met a number of people over the years on Staten island who had work done by Ray. He was funny, sarcastic, and quick-tongued.  I remember asking him about his needles (this was in the midst of the AIDS epidemic) after all and he asked me right back “How clean is your blood?”
             I liked him immediately.  He did the work.  His niece and I talked.  I just remember being surprised how much the tattoo gun sounded like a dentist drill.  The little whine, the humming buzz.
            My second tattoo: I got my senior year in college.  We found somebody in Westchester who did the work in his suburban neighborhood house.  I remember little of the experience.  The tattoo was not the one I wanted: what I had hoped to get – Tigger with a microphone and a mohawk jumping on his tail – I ended up not being able to afford.  Instead: I went with symmetry – and more pirate stuff: a rose with crossed swords above the left bicep.  In hindsight, this tattoo has held up better than Tigger probably would have....
Photo by Joy Gaines-Friedler

            What lasts though are the tattoos I wanted to get but didn’t: After the rose I wanted to get Charlie Chaplin tattooed on me.  I asked several artist friends of mine to make me a design, and I got a few of them, but none of them “worked.”  And for several years I wanted the logo for my old band tattooed somewhere.  But neither happened.
            So I went with two for a long time: but I often thought about getting new ink.  I wrote.  I taught.  I created a program for young writers in northern Michigan called the Controlled Burn Seminar for Young Writers.  I committed 13 years to that project, and after the tenth seminar, I thought I would get its logo – a lit cherry bomb – tattooed on my right forearm.  The logo was important to me: I believe poetry and all art should be a lit cherry bomb.  It should be a potential explosion.  But it should be fun, too.  I looked into it a few times, but I finally made the decision on a lark a few days after my birthday.  I was walking on Carson Street in Pittsburgh – tattoo parlor row.  I liked the name Flying Monkey Tattoo.  So in I went.

            The tattooist was a kid, He could have been one of my students–he was finishing up his apprenticeship and mine was one of his first tattoos.  The seminar after the ink ended up being the last one.  It seemed fitting that the creative writing kids got to see it before the seminar ended.
            And now I’m back to collecting designs: this time, though, I know who’s going to do the tattoos.  The next one will be a Buddha carrying a tattered pirate flag on my back.  These are the two strains of my life.  And I want the MG logo somewhere.  I’ve been driving an MGB for 15 years.  The tattoo is a commitment and the things I am committed too, the things that define me, that continue to define me I want inked on me.  I spend much of my life putting ink on paper.  I think it’s only fitting to have some ink on me, too."
And now, for one of Gerry's poems:
 
Alphabet City
            Avenues A through D, Lower East Side, NYC

After the ambulances left but
before the sun finally rose above Avenue
C, I walked toward Tompkins Square Park where the heroin
dependent rockers slept, addled on benches, while
ex-punks huddled in their leather jackets
for the morning was still damp. One of them called out,

Gerry? What was I to do when I saw her, recognized
her hesitant familiar eyes. How could I have
imagined things would turn out this way when I’d call out her name —
Joanna — those sleepless nights of high school &
kept a photo of her deep into college.
Longing has such a sense of history.

Morning was approaching in its colorful coat.
Not once those months of kissing her, had I wakened beside her, but
oh — I’d wanted to. She was thinner & glanced away when I nodded;
pigeons surrounded her bench but would take off
quickly with the first sudden movement or when the next squad car
revealed itself in flashers & sirens.

So what did I do? What could I do?
The three five dollar bills folded in my pocket, what
use were they to me? I gave them to her, she who’d once been beautiful. How
victorious I’d felt that first time I kissed her.

We didn’t look at each other, nor did we look askance. I thought of the little
xiphoid syringes she might load with that money. This was my sin.
Two young black kids with dreadlocks walked by singing
Zion! Take me back to Zion! & I knew I’d never be saved.

– Gerry LaFemina
from Vanishing Horizon, 2011 Anhinga Press

Gerry LaFemina is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Vanishing Horizon (2011, Anhinga Press) and a collection of short stories.  He directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University where he also teaches.  He splits his time between Maryland and New York City.


Thanks to Gerry for sharing his tattoos and poetry with us here on Tattoosday!


This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

If you are reading this on another web site other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit http://tattoosday.blogspot.com and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Gerry LaFemina

Today's tattooed poet is Gerry LaFemina. Gerry put together a narrative about his ink, which makes my job easier, and gives us a detailed view of his tattoos. Let's see what he has to say:
Photo by Joy Gaines-Friedler
"My first tattoo–I was 19, I was a punk rock kid, and I had been thinking about getting a tattoo for some time.  I had had a dream in which I had a tattoo of a skull and crossbones design in which the skull had peace symbols for eyes.  When I was shaving the next morning, I was surprised I didn’t have the tattoo.  So I called up my friend Melody, whose uncle was Tattoo Ray–one of the best tattooists on Staten Island.  She made the appointment and came with me to her uncle’s house.
            In New York at the time (the mid 1980's), tattooing was still illegal: most tattoo artists worked out of their homes and their clientele was through word of mouth.  Ray was pretty famous–and I have met a number of people over the years on Staten island who had work done by Ray. He was funny, sarcastic, and quick-tongued.  I remember asking him about his needles (this was in the midst of the AIDS epidemic) after all and he asked me right back “How clean is your blood?”
             I liked him immediately.  He did the work.  His niece and I talked.  I just remember being surprised how much the tattoo gun sounded like a dentist drill.  The little whine, the humming buzz.
            My second tattoo: I got my senior year in college.  We found somebody in Westchester who did the work in his suburban neighborhood house.  I remember little of the experience.  The tattoo was not the one I wanted: what I had hoped to get – Tigger with a microphone and a mohawk jumping on his tail – I ended up not being able to afford.  Instead: I went with symmetry – and more pirate stuff: a rose with crossed swords above the left bicep.  In hindsight, this tattoo has held up better than Tigger probably would have....
Photo by Joy Gaines-Friedler

            What lasts though are the tattoos I wanted to get but didn’t: After the rose I wanted to get Charlie Chaplin tattooed on me.  I asked several artist friends of mine to make me a design, and I got a few of them, but none of them “worked.”  And for several years I wanted the logo for my old band tattooed somewhere.  But neither happened.
            So I went with two for a long time: but I often thought about getting new ink.  I wrote.  I taught.  I created a program for young writers in northern Michigan called the Controlled Burn Seminar for Young Writers.  I committed 13 years to that project, and after the tenth seminar, I thought I would get its logo – a lit cherry bomb – tattooed on my right forearm.  The logo was important to me: I believe poetry and all art should be a lit cherry bomb.  It should be a potential explosion.  But it should be fun, too.  I looked into it a few times, but I finally made the decision on a lark a few days after my birthday.  I was walking on Carson Street in Pittsburgh – tattoo parlor row.  I liked the name Flying Monkey Tattoo.  So in I went.

            The tattooist was a kid, He could have been one of my students–he was finishing up his apprenticeship and mine was one of his first tattoos.  The seminar after the ink ended up being the last one.  It seemed fitting that the creative writing kids got to see it before the seminar ended.
            And now I’m back to collecting designs: this time, though, I know who’s going to do the tattoos.  The next one will be a Buddha carrying a tattered pirate flag on my back.  These are the two strains of my life.  And I want the MG logo somewhere.  I’ve been driving an MGB for 15 years.  The tattoo is a commitment and the things I am committed too, the things that define me, that continue to define me I want inked on me.  I spend much of my life putting ink on paper.  I think it’s only fitting to have some ink on me, too."
And now, for one of Gerry's poems:
 
Alphabet City
            Avenues A through D, Lower East Side, NYC

After the ambulances left but
before the sun finally rose above Avenue
C, I walked toward Tompkins Square Park where the heroin
dependent rockers slept, addled on benches, while
ex-punks huddled in their leather jackets
for the morning was still damp. One of them called out,

Gerry? What was I to do when I saw her, recognized
her hesitant familiar eyes. How could I have
imagined things would turn out this way when I’d call out her name —
Joanna — those sleepless nights of high school &
kept a photo of her deep into college.
Longing has such a sense of history.

Morning was approaching in its colorful coat.
Not once those months of kissing her, had I wakened beside her, but
oh — I’d wanted to. She was thinner & glanced away when I nodded;
pigeons surrounded her bench but would take off
quickly with the first sudden movement or when the next squad car
revealed itself in flashers & sirens.

So what did I do? What could I do?
The three five dollar bills folded in my pocket, what
use were they to me? I gave them to her, she who’d once been beautiful. How
victorious I’d felt that first time I kissed her.

We didn’t look at each other, nor did we look askance. I thought of the little
xiphoid syringes she might load with that money. This was my sin.
Two young black kids with dreadlocks walked by singing
Zion! Take me back to Zion! & I knew I’d never be saved.

– Gerry LaFemina
from Vanishing Horizon, 2011 Anhinga Press

Gerry LaFemina is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Vanishing Horizon (2011, Anhinga Press) and a collection of short stories.  He directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University where he also teaches.  He splits his time between Maryland and New York City.


Thanks to Gerry for sharing his tattoos and poetry with us here on Tattoosday!


This entry is ©2011 Tattoosday. The poem is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

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