Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. 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. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....
Written on the Body
I didn’t expect to get my first tattoo in my thirties, but there you have it. For my partner’s birthday, we went to a rooftop comedy show, ate Ethiopian food with our hands, and got matching tattoos: abstracted versions of the Celtic symbol for family. We’d started dating in high school, had two kids at home, bouncing off the walls of our Brooklyn apartment, and still enjoyed each other’s company after a pandemic lockdown. We felt we had earned these inked symbols of attachment. And we were ready to do something huge and symbolic to commemorate all of this.
Because of the pandemic and consequent lockdown, we had felt, paradoxically, simultaneously enclosed and constantly in danger for over a year. We were not teenagers sneaking out to get tattoos against our parents’ will. We were the parents. We were old, we were tired, we had lived through a global disaster. We wanted to live on the edge, but only for the few hours we could get our own parents to babysit our children. It was that type of living on the edge.
Of course, the idea of getting the tattoo was different from actually getting it. As a writer, I loved the idea of meaningful symbols written on my body. The tattoo artist, Tanya, understood this and spent the whole time discussing literary theory with me. Afterwards, I sat looking at a photo on my phone of Tanya giving me the tattoo, unable to connect with myself that person stooped over a chair. When I got home, though, and looked at my tattoo in the mirror, and then went and wrote, it all felt finally natural. This time, I had written my story not on paper, but on my body, which is exactly where I felt it should be.
Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She has published two books of poetry, Lunatic Speaks and Making Maxine’s Baby, and one book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist.