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Literary Tattoo Ideas: Poem Tattoos

Poetry full back piece - now that's dedication!

Poetry full back piece - now that's dedication!

My First Poem

The first poem I ever wrote, at the tender age of nine, was about a man and a woman standing in the darkness of their living room late at night, unable to sleep for reasons unknown, and the final sentence went something like, "Look at them, their faces mild, for in her arms, there sleeps a child." I had woken up in the middle of the night that evening, with that final sentence implanted in my brain, and for the first time in my life I reached into my nightstand in the darkness, found a pencil and a piece of paper, scribbled down the words and crafted a poem around it. I remember it being pretty impressive for a nine-year-old. So impressive, in fact, that when I rushed to show it to my mom in the morning, she looked at me weird and asked, "Did you really write this?" I love poetry because it can be so powerfully evocative in just a few short lines, whether it rhymes or just has its own natural flow.

Among people who choose to get an entire poem, or an excerpt from a poem, tattooed on their skin, there are certain classics that seem to be particularly favored.

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (1923)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

Robert Frost Tattoos

Robert Frost was an American poet and playwright from New England who is best known for works such as Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, The Road Not Taken, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Fire and Ice. Between the sale of his first poem, My Butterfly: An Elegy in 1894, and his death at age 88 in 1963, he won four Pulitzer Prize awards for poetry and was honored to be chosen to read one of his poems at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The epitaph on his headstone, located in Old Bennington Cemetery in Vermont, quotes a line from one of his poems: "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" (1923)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

"Nothing gold can stay" tattoo.

"Nothing gold can stay" tattoo.

Dylan Thomas Tattoos

Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer who was born in Wales and died in New York City at the tragic young age of 39 in 1953. His best known work, hands down, is Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, which was written for his dying father in 1952. It was one of Dylan Thomas' last poems and would turn out to be an eerie self-eulogy, as he himself died a year later. At the time of his death, he was staying in New York in order to perform in Under Milk Wood. Thomas had a long history of asthma, blackouts, and heart and chest problems. His addiction to alcohol certainly didn't help matters, but it was those two factors combined with an increase in New York City's air pollution that conspired to ultimately cause Dylan Thomas' untimely death.

E.E. Cummings Tattoos

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) was an American poet who authored an impressive 2,900 poems and four plays during his lifetime. The modern style of his poems (influenced mostly by Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound) are best recognized for containing no capital letters and sporadic use of punctuation. Even his name is often written as "e e cummings," although there is no evidence to say that the poet preferred it to be written this way. E.E. Cummings led a successful career that spanned three decades, before dying of a stroke at the age of 67 in New Hampshire.


Skyler DeCristoforo from Olympia, WA on May 21, 2013:

This hub is awesome to be put simply! I absolutely love poetry tattoos. I have a poem of my own on my chest and plan to get more on other locations around my body. Many people see the skin as blank canvass to be illustrated with tattoos. Its not as common to see the skin as a blank page to be written on. I think its brilliant personally. I really dig all of the pictures along with the article. Absolutely awesome

Beastgate on February 11, 2013:

"Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die"

Joshua Pine from San Francisco on March 23, 2012:

Wow... And to think wordy tattoos are a bad idea... I stand corrected by The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - by: William Blake! good hub!

Poetic Fool on December 09, 2011:

I love poetry but am not into tatoos. Still this is an awesome hub and some of the ink you've shown are from some of my favorite poems. Loved it. Thanks.

Jaclyn Popola (author) from Florida on December 01, 2011:

@tammyswallow - That's awesome! That makes me happy to hear :) There are SO many great tattoo ideas out there. I'm glad you're feeling inspired.

Tammy from North Carolina on December 01, 2011:

That is fascinating. Reading your hubs has got me reconsidering getting a tattoo!

RichardCMckeown on September 15, 2011:

Great tattoo poems.

Sammy from Australia on August 17, 2011:

Wow these are amazing, if only I wanted a tattoo!

fashion on August 03, 2011:

WOW this is strange and interesting.Well done

Debbie Carey from Riverton, KS, USA on July 31, 2011:

Wow, I have never seen entire poems in tattoos. They are beautiful, but I could never endure so much for the love of words. I am too weak.

Voted up, awesome and beautiful

Phoebe Pike on July 30, 2011:

One of my friends has the entire poem "The Raven" By Poe as a tattoo.

Erin Bower from Georgia on July 30, 2011:

Some of this are pretty awesome, but I don't think I have that much dedication to poetry; I do love it, though! I voted this up and awesome!