Monday, April 5, 2010

The Tattooed Poets Project: Christine Hamm

Today's tattooed poet is Christine Hamm:

Christine, a fellow Brooklynite, explained her tattoo as follows:

"Why my tattoo? Is it a museum on my arm? Is it some kind of message from outerspace? Children run to me just to touch it: ask me what the words mean, what I'm trying to spell. There are no words, only water.

For many years, I had been thinking about getting matching tattoos of waves splashing up my calves to my knees, as if I were wading in the ocean, perpetually. I thought about the cost, I thought about how the tattoos would look with a miniskirt -- I realized that if I got them, I'd always want to be wearing jeans rolled up to my knees and salt-stained t-shirt. I can't carry seashells all the time in my pockets, I can't be brushing the sand out of my hair every five minutes. So I decided to take less of a plunge, enter the water one arm at a time. It started off quite slow. Are you sure you don't want a fish, the artist kept asking me as we mapped out my image on tracing paper. Everybody else gets a fish. Just water, I said, just waves. The tattoo was to celebrate --- some kind of new awakening, finally going back to grad school to get my PhD in Lit like I always wanted, finally believing I could achieve something more. The waves are Asian-inspired; many who see my arm mention Hokusai, but the water is not taken directly from him. I was thinking of Zen when I finally decided on these particular waves; I was thinking that if I could just be in the water, neither sinking nor floating above, if I could just be. Water has always suggested to me some kind of slower, purer imitation of our world, something more real and less sharp. Not just amniotic fluid, not just rain, but the color, the there-not there texture, the kiss of it."
And that explanation, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love the Tattooed Poets Project.

She credits the work to Mike Bakaty at Fineline Tattoo NYC on 1st Avenue in Manhattan, who inked this about three years ago.

Christine is a PhD candidate in English Literature, teaches at CUNY in New York City, and was runner-up to the Queens Poet Laureate. Her second book of poetry, Saints & Cannibals, is coming out this spring. For more about her, go to her blog here.

To read a poem from Christine, as part of the Tattooed Poets Project, head over to BillyBlog here.

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