Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Tanya Chernov

I'd been tossing around the idea of blogging a tattoo series for nearly a year. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. 

After hoarding the photos and essays I've been collecting from these guys since July of 2012, and with the promise of spring peeking its deliciously sunny head out through all of this winter gloom, I decided there was no better time than now to finally unveil THE INDIE INK RUNS DEEP mini-series!

Today's ink comes from Tanya Chernov. Tanya earned her BA in English from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington and holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. A proud member of the Richard Hugo House and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, her work has been published all over the literary map, ranging from experimental forms to formal verse, from literary narratives to imaginative farces. A Real Emotional Girl: A Memoir of Love and Loss (Skyhorse Publishing) was recently named one of Kirkus Review's 15 Excellent Memoirs. Poetry and translations editor for the Los Angeles Review, Tanya lives and writes in Seattle with her dog, Mona, though roots of her heart remain firmly planted in Wisconsin. Go Packers. Find Tanya and her debut memoir, A Real Emotional Girl, at www.tanyachernov.

My first tattoo was a blocky, unplanned, ugly mistake: Hebrew text that matched my now-ex fiancĂ©'s and which read "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, that shepherds among the lilies" from the Song of Solomon. Yeah--oy vey is right.

Since I can remember writing, which—as is the case for most of us—goes pretty far back, I've been fussy about the implements used in my work. The type of paper and pen are most crucial, the tactile sensation of the keys on the keyboard having heavy influence on the tone and timbre of what I create. I began cultivating an obsession with antique typewriters after college, reveling in the way the high-mounted keys almost made it seem as if another person was writing my words altogether.

In the days before my former betrothed got mean, in the early days before he turned on me every night after he'd turned to the liquor, we were actually quite sweet together. More in love than you'd guess. One day while I was working at home with the dogs lying lazily in the sun at my feet, Chris came bounding through my office door and whisked me outside to the running car. Down the street, he'd found the most incredible garage sale, he'd said, and he wanted to take me there before all the good stuff was gone. An older couple was selling a million little trinkets and wares from their life together, and Chris and I wanted to buy every bit of it so we could force our own world to construct itself just so. But instead, we settled on what we could get for the cash in our pockets, which included an Underwood typewriter and its heavy black carrying case. Together they weighed nearly as much as a Volkswagen, and Chris lugged them into the back of the car for me.

Though I never found any ribbons to fit inside and didn't have the patience to nurse it back to functioning order, that typewriter became a sort of mascot, an inanimate pet. I would stroke its keys late into the night when the words wouldn't flow, imagining my black metal machine spitting out letters and poems and dreams high through the air in an endless stream, my fingers simply taking dictation.

Because he knew I loved it, Chris kept the typewriter from me when I left him. Held it hostage like the child I thank the heavens we never had. He kept other things that stung me, too--the Dyson vacuum, the vintage leather couch from my office, the plant I'd moved with me from house to house since high school. But the typewriter was mine, through and though. Chris had no use for it; he doesn't even read.

A few months after I found the courage to leave that deeply necrotic relationship, I found a brilliant tattoo artist who specialized in cover-ups and happened to be from my home state of Wisconsin. She did a remarkable job creating something I absolutely loved to replace what had become a terrible reminder of my near-disastrous marriage. When it was time for my second tat, I knew exactly who I wanted to do the art, and exactly what I wanted: an old-fashioned typewriter.

I have more antique typewriters in my house now than I know what to do with, several of which are worth a good deal of money, in fine condition, and with fabulous aesthetic appeal. But none of them can replace my first—that true gem with all its greasy charm, its hulking presence a comfort I can't accurately describe.

The tattoo on my bicep gives me some small solace in its absence and provides exactly the sort of touchstone quality I so hoped it would possess. Every time I look at the tattoo, or touch it, or simply remember that it's there, I am reminded of my devotion to this writer's life, to my love of the written word. Like a ballet dancer returning to the barre and knowing exactly where she is, having this tattoo reminds me that every time I return to the page, I have come home.

1 comment:

  1. Ink can be covered... words never can. The permanence of words is what makes them most valuable of all. And now these words will have me reading a new series of them. Thank you Tanya, and thank you TNBBC.