I am. I am. I am.

Literary Tattoos: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

This belongs to Darian K.

My life is a constant whirlwind full of self doubt and existential angst. When I look at this tattoo, I remember to breathe. I remember that just because I feel like I am going insane, I am alive, and that’s good enough for the moment.

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

- The Bell Jar by Syliva Plath

the box is only temporary

This tattoo belongs to Stum Casia, a poet and a visual artist from Manila, Philippines.

Literary Tattoos: The Arrival of the Bee Box Sylvia Plath

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary.

- excerpt from Sylvia Plath‘s “The Arrival of the Bee Box”.

I am. I am. I am.

Three very distinct tattoos from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Literary Tattoos: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

This is Jude’s tattoo.

It is an anatomically correct heart with the words “I am. I am. I am.” pumping out. each “I am” is slightly bigger the the previous to symbolize the beating effect of the words at described in the book, The Bell Jar.

The words ” I am” can have any meaning, but the way I perceived such strong words were ” I am Here. I am Alive. I am Okay.”

Literary Tattoos: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

This is Emma’s tattoo.

For me the quote means a lot and speaks a great deal to a very difficult time I recently went through when I was required to really look closely at who I am and who I want to be.  I love the definitive-ness of the idea. We are. Period. We exist and that means something. But the provisional nature of it is intriguing as well. Finish the phrase….I am….what? A mother? Flawed? Content with my life. You name it. There are lots of other elements to the piece that are all symbolic to me but not necessarily in a “literary” way.

The tattoo was done by the inimitable Alice Kendall at Infinity Tattoo in Portland, OR.

Literary Tattoos: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

This one belongs to Maria Jose Montero.

For me it’s like a mantra, so I don’t forget that I am alive, I exist and I am me.


“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

It really goes.

This is Adrienne’s tattoo.

Sylvia Plath was has been my favorite writer since I began high school and was my fist true encounter to poetry. I thought it only right to commemorate her talent with a line of her poetry I think truly exemplifies who she was as a writer:

Literary Tattoos: Sylvia Plath Lady Lazarus

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—-
It really goes.

- Excerpt from Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath.  Read the whole poem here.

Plath / Cobain

These are Eileen’s tattoos.

Literary Tattoos: Sylvia Plath Kurt Cobain Elm

My tattoo is from the poem Elm by Sylvia Plath. The line reads “I do not fear it: I have been there.” I got this tattoo to symbolize my struggles with Bipolar Disorder and how I identify with Sylvia Plath through her literature. She is one of my greatest literary influences and I take great inspiration from the successes she had despite her own struggle with mental illness. For me, this tattoo represents that I’ve been to the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs, and I’m not afraid, because I survived before and I will survive again.

Literary Tattoos: Sylvia Plath Kurt Cobain Elm

I also have a tattoo on my right forearm, it is a passage from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. He also was a sufferer from Bipolar Disorder. The quote reads, “And so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” He references the Neil Young song. I have always been a huge Kurt Cobain fan, but he also committed suicide like Sylvia Plath, and that is not my intended path. For me, this tattoo is a remember that I DON’T believe this statement. I tattooed it on my forearm not because I believe him but because I don’t. It is always better to stay strong and keep going.

I eat men like air.

This tattoo belongs to Elias Flores.

I am an 18 year old gay young man attending GA State University planning on majoring in chemistry. As I discover more and more of Sylvia Plath I keep asking myself if I am making the right choice in my decision. Her work moves me, makes me feel. I am greatly considering majoring in English because of her. To be able to manipulate words and emotions in such a parallel way is amazing! The reason I choice the last verse of “Lady Lazarus” is because of the image when I first read it. I pictured a woman with flaming fire hair rising and devouring men like air. It almost serves as a warning symbol to guys who want me for only one thing. Beware, I EAT men like you!

Literary Tattoos: Sylvia Plath Lady Lazarus

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

- Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus.

Fig Tree

This is Katie C.’s tattoo:

The reason I got it was because I can really relate to having many paths in my life I might take, and I want to remind myself that if I wait around for the perfect, right one, eventually all my choices will be gone.

Literary Tattoos: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath Illustrations

“…I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7