The Tattooed Poets Project: Jill Alexander Essbaum's Poetic Feet (and Jessica Piazza's Too!)

UPDATED! See below....


I've decided to launch this special National Poetry Month Tattoosday feature with the wonderful tattooed feet of Jill Alexander Essbaum, author of several collections of poetry, the most recent being Harlot.

Although this month I will be featuring tattoos on poets, not every tattoo is poetic, in the literal sense. Jill's inked feet are.

Jill met me in the Starbucks at 7 Penn Plaza on a cold day in February, prior to a reading at the KGB Bar later that evening.

She was one of the first poets who signed on to this project, and she allowed me the honor of taking a clearer picture of her tattoos, even though they appeared here, on the Best American Poetry blog, back in May 2008.

Although the concept may be alien to many, students and purveyors of the art of poetry know that a line of poetry can be broken down into metered verse that is identifiable based on the stress and intonation of the syllables.

People may have heard that most of Shakespeare's work is composed, for example, in iambic pentameter. What that means is that each line is comprised of five parts, or "feet," and each foot is made up of an iamb, or two syllables, the first of which is unstressed, followed by the stressed sound.

The name "Marie" is an iamb, for example, as the stress falls on the second syllable. "Mary," on the other hand, has the stress on the first syllable, and is identified as a "trochee".

There are other types of poetic fragments, such as dactylls and anapests, but the iambic and trochaic feet are the most common.

So what does this have to do with Jill's feet? When poets study and scan a line of verse, they mark it up, identifying the stress marks with the accents (or longums), and the unstressed syllables with a symbol known as a brevis.


Jill's feet are literally with the symbols denoting them as trochee (left) and iamb (right). Pure brilliance, in my opinion.

Jill and her friend Jessica came up with this idea last year and gave it significant thought.

As most poets (with notable exceptions, of course) are also teachers, they thought it would be a great visual aid when educating students on scansion.

Jill spent a weekend sketching and drawing the marks, not as easy a task as one would imagine. How to make the marks look like poetic symbols, and not stray ink marks, or even worse, scars, was a part of the process.

She and Jessica mulled the placement on the body: should they go on their wrists? Jill, a professed punster, then had the revelation: iambs and trochees are poetic feet, the tattoos should go on their own feet.

Trochee went on the right side, because it is a progressive, forward-moving beat. Iamb went on the left, as it is a heartbeat.

She and Jessica both got inked in June 2008, shortly before the West Chester Poetry Conference. What better setting to show off fresh poetry tattoos?

Each tattoo took only 15 minutes, and Jessica placed her ink on the sides of her feet, as opposed to the tops like Jill.

I want to thank Jill Alexander Essbaum for helping launch this special feature here on Tattoosday. I invite you to head over here to BillyBlog and check out one of Jill's poems, along with links to more of her work.

WAIT! There's more.....

Here's a photo of the feet of Jill's friend Jessica Piazza:


As noted before, it's the same tattoo, just oriented differently on the feet. Jessica added:
I figured, since it was my idea in the first place, I should be up on this if I can. Too bad we couldn't find a way to get tattoos that symbolize rhyme. I'm more of the meter dork than Jill, which is why I wanted these in the first place. (In all fairness, doing it on our feet was her stroke of genius!)
And, as Jill noted in the comment section, the tattooist is Chris Torres.

Head on back over to BillyBlog here to see one of Jessica's poems.

The Tattooed Poet's Project: An Introduction

April is National Poetry Month!

In addition to the "regular" Tattoosday features, every day in April will feature a different poet's tattoo(s).

Poets across America have contributed photos of their tattoos for us to enjoy, with each post linking back to BillyBlog, where one of their poems will be posted on the corresponding day.

Not all the poems are tattoo-related, but many are. Please come back every day in April to see the wide range of poetic tattoos!

Tasty




Nice whoppers by Johanna Bluebird again.

Tasty




Nice whoppers by Johanna Bluebird again.

Red Hoot Dutch


Mark Harada

Tattoorism: Christina's Fleur-de-lys

For those of you visiting Tattoosday for the first time, I refer to posts based on reader submissions as Tattoorism. That is, tattoos from out of town visiting us here in the blogosphere.

There was a pleasant surprise in my in box this morning:


Skeptics may say, "What's the big deal? It's just a fleur-de-lis!" But we here at Tattoosday don't think that way. Tattoos aren't just designs inked into the flesh, they generally carry significance that transcend the skin and touch the soul.

And I'm always interested when someone I've never met takes the time and energy to send me a photo and elaborate on their tattoo. Christina's tattoo, above, is a case in point.

I'll let Christina explain her one and only tattoo:

"Tom Berg at SoCal Tattoo in San Pedro, CA did my ink. He designed the elaborate tattoo for the main character in the tv show "Prison Break," [see below] among others.

My husband works for the show and knows Tom, so he was able to get an appointment in two weeks instead of the one-year waiting list that he normally has. So we had that going for us, which is good.

People ask me all the time if the 4-inch fleur de lys between my shoulders means that I really really love the [New Orleans] Saints, or the Boy Scouts... Nope. The fleur has been popping up in my life for years. I wore a ring with a fleur on it, identical to a ring that my best friend in high school wore, which we got on my first road trip. That relationship was instrumental in breaking me out of my shell in school. I wore the fleur on a necklace through college. Then, I spent a year living in Florence, Italy. The symbol of the city is the Florentine "gigli," or lily, the Italian version of the fleur de lys.

One of my housemates said something that stuck with me. "Florence doesn't change you, it only makes you more like you are."

For me, my tattoo is a symbol of my journey toward becoming who I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do, living how I am supposed to live. I got it two months after I married the love of my life, my best friend since I was 12."
The Fleur-de-lis (also spelled fleur-de-lys) has appeared on Tattoosday previously here. I'd like to thank Christina for her continued readership and contribution to the blog!

I cannot guarantee that I'll publish every tattoo e-mailed my way, so I don't openly solicit contributions. However, every once in a while, it's a nice change of pace, both for us here at Tattoosday and, I believe, the readers. Thanks again, Christina!

Nice Pair



Hart & Huntington's Robert Jarrett did this leggy pair.

Nice Pair



Hart & Huntington's Robert Jarrett did this leggy pair.

I want you to hoot me as hard as you can



Timmy B

More stick-n-poke radness

Do you remember the post I did about the young man with the butterflies on his feet and the ridiculous home tattoos? Well, he showed me some photos of his friend's tattoos. And boy, are they ridiculous!

First up- booyah! arm!

This poor person has "booyah!" on their arm not once, but at least SEVEN TIMES! I can also see a pterodactyl, a ghost, and "USA GOES UNDEFEATED".


I wish I knew the story behind this one. "Saves Latin"??? ... maybe I don't really want to know.


And this. What is this? An alien-insect with patriotic wings riding a scooter with hello kitty with a mustache in the back? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Seriously, the more I see tattoos like this, the more I shake my head and start to wonder if they are really works of genius instead of being the worst tattoos in the world.

More stick-n-poke radness

Do you remember the post I did about the young man with the butterflies on his feet and the ridiculous home tattoos? Well, he showed me some photos of his friend's tattoos. And boy, are they ridiculous!

First up- booyah! arm!

This poor person has "booyah!" on their arm not once, but at least SEVEN TIMES! I can also see a pterodactyl, a ghost, and "USA GOES UNDEFEATED".


I wish I knew the story behind this one. "Saves Latin"??? ... maybe I don't really want to know.


And this. What is this? An alien-insect with patriotic wings riding a scooter with hello kitty with a mustache in the back? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Seriously, the more I see tattoos like this, the more I shake my head and start to wonder if they are really works of genius instead of being the worst tattoos in the world.

More stick-n-poke radness

Do you remember the post I did about the young man with the butterflies on his feet and the ridiculous home tattoos? Well, he showed me some photos of his friend's tattoos. And boy, are they ridiculous!

First up- booyah! arm!

This poor person has "booyah!" on their arm not once, but at least SEVEN TIMES! I can also see a pterodactyl, a ghost, and "USA GOES UNDEFEATED".


I wish I knew the story behind this one. "Saves Latin"??? ... maybe I don't really want to know.


And this. What is this? An alien-insect with patriotic wings riding a scooter with hello kitty with a mustache in the back? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Seriously, the more I see tattoos like this, the more I shake my head and start to wonder if they are really works of genius instead of being the worst tattoos in the world.

More stick-n-poke radness

Do you remember the post I did about the young man with the butterflies on his feet and the ridiculous home tattoos? Well, he showed me some photos of his friend's tattoos. And boy, are they ridiculous!

First up- booyah! arm!

This poor person has "booyah!" on their arm not once, but at least SEVEN TIMES! I can also see a pterodactyl, a ghost, and "USA GOES UNDEFEATED".


I wish I knew the story behind this one. "Saves Latin"??? ... maybe I don't really want to know.


And this. What is this? An alien-insect with patriotic wings riding a scooter with hello kitty with a mustache in the back? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Seriously, the more I see tattoos like this, the more I shake my head and start to wonder if they are really works of genius instead of being the worst tattoos in the world.

More stick-n-poke radness

Do you remember the post I did about the young man with the butterflies on his feet and the ridiculous home tattoos? Well, he showed me some photos of his friend's tattoos. And boy, are they ridiculous!

First up- booyah! arm!

This poor person has "booyah!" on their arm not once, but at least SEVEN TIMES! I can also see a pterodactyl, a ghost, and "USA GOES UNDEFEATED".


I wish I knew the story behind this one. "Saves Latin"??? ... maybe I don't really want to know.


And this. What is this? An alien-insect with patriotic wings riding a scooter with hello kitty with a mustache in the back? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Seriously, the more I see tattoos like this, the more I shake my head and start to wonder if they are really works of genius instead of being the worst tattoos in the world.

Jorge's Attabeira Tattoo Pays Tribute to His Puerto Rican Heritage

Last May, I spent a few minutes on the N train talking to a woman named Patricia who had a cool tattoo on the back of her neck (see the post here). She disembarked before I was able to get all the facts on the piece, but I still posted the blurry photo.

No, I didn't run into her again. But I did meet Jorge, who had a similar piece on his inner left forearm based on the fertility goddess Atabey, or Attabeira, the goddess of fertility in the TaĆ­no culture of Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean:



The piece runs the length of his inner arm, and took 2 sittings and 6 hours to complete.

He had this tattooed by Byron Velasquez, then at Rising Dragon Tattoos in 2001. Byron now tattoos out of Abstract Black NYC. Jorge chose this image as an icon to represent his Puerto Rican heritage. This is one of his three tattoos.

Check out other work from Rising Dragon previously appearing on Tattoosday here.

Thanks to Jorge for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Xrin Arms Explains His Tattoos


I ran into Anthony after work while passing through the Amtrak section of Penn Station.

He was in town to perform in Brooklyn and was waiting for his ride. He performs under the name "Xrin Arms," which he pronounced as "Your-in-arms". He's a techno punk musician currently on tour. Here's the flier for the gig he was playing that night:


He had an unusual series of tattoos which he allowed me to photograph, after he explained them to me.

The tattoos cover a significant part of his upper right arm, as well as one side of his forearm.

First and foremost, as a writer, he had his pen inked on his arm.


He always uses a Pilot Precise V5, he said,

and he produced one to show me, holding it up to the piece to show me that it was tattooed to scale.

The next element of his inked arm is a legion of sperm directed at his elbow. Some of the sperm are traveling from the pen, representing the knowledge that flows from the written word.

At the center of the elbow is a moth in a circle. He said that it represents a "moth in a beehive". When I questioned that image, he acknowledged that that was how he feels a lot of the time.


If you picture a moth in a beehive, you envision many things: solitude and violence. Of beauty and alienation. The sperm heading toward this image reinforce that the creative experience is a birthing process fraught with danger.

Lastly, on the back of the bicep, is an owl with its wings outstretched.


The owl represents to him that he is noctural, and stays up all night.

He has 2 other tattoos but we stuck with these because they played off one another.

They were tattooed by Chris Bragg when he was working out of Hammer's Tattoo & Body Piercing in Canton, Ohio.

Please check out Xrin Arms myspace page here. There's also a cool interview with Anthony over on the blog Digital Liver here.

Thanks again to for sharing his work with us here on Tattoosday.

As an added extra, here's a video of Xrin Arms song "Feather Mask":

Cats with no ears

I just took in two of the cutest cats ever, and so I have had cats on the brain lately. Because of this, I thought I'd do some searching for bad cat tattoos. I am SURE there are worse ones out here, but this is what I found- three cat tattoos without any ears. Why would you ever draw a cat without ears? It just makes them look like weird aliens!


This looks like a Lisa Frank drawing without the pizazz.


This is the most half-assed tattoo I have possibly ever seen. Why are the eyes sideways? Why are the whiskers blue? Where are the ears? So many unanswered questions!


This is a mix of the lady's five cats and some human (the right eye). Why the human has a lazy eye, I don't know. I also think the cat is actually the bark of a tree.


And finally, while not technically terrible, this butterfly-cat holding a flower and inexplicably wearing pants makes me laugh.

Cats with no ears

I just took in two of the cutest cats ever, and so I have had cats on the brain lately. Because of this, I thought I'd do some searching for bad cat tattoos. I am SURE there are worse ones out here, but this is what I found- three cat tattoos without any ears. Why would you ever draw a cat without ears? It just makes them look like weird aliens!


This looks like a Lisa Frank drawing without the pizazz.


This is the most half-assed tattoo I have possibly ever seen. Why are the eyes sideways? Why are the whiskers blue? Where are the ears? So many unanswered questions!


This is a mix of the lady's five cats and some human (the right eye). Why the human has a lazy eye, I don't know. I also think the cat is actually the bark of a tree.


And finally, while not technically terrible, this butterfly-cat holding a flower and inexplicably wearing pants makes me laugh.

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