4.6: groundid | Kristine Snodgrass–visual art (digital glitches)

burnish digital glitch 565 x 750 pixels ©2021

diaphanous micro

4.6: groundid | Kristine Snodgrass–visual art (digital glitches)


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Intuitive. Sign. Deletion. Obliteration. Constructive. Beauty
These pieces are glitches (digital) using three different subjects or topics that are all interrelated: t-shirts appearing in social media ads, images of the sound of my voice, and images of my body. My work concerns the intersections of sexuality, voyeurism, performance, Capitalism, and gender more broadly. I am influenced by asemics and abstract expressionist women like Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler.

The glitch is not the environment of the thing, it is the thing itself. I am less interested in exhausting the definitions of asemic writing (if the glitch is ultimately denying meaning from a semantic form is arguable) and more interested in seeing the possibilities of the glitch. I wrangle the “data bending” on phone apps until I get the desired image. That is creative and productive. This does not impede, however, the obliteration of the original image.

Most of my glitches start with ads on my Facebook (on my phone) that offer new complexities when considering its form. I am now introducing Capitalism, data mining, privacy infringement, assumption, targeting, and an inextricable combination of those that can only begin to attack the implications of a thing. I screenshot the ads for t-shirts that appear in my feed (based on the above) that usually show “positive” messaging for and about women, or perceived “feminist” messaging. Glitch apps then layer, destroy, and rebuild what I have consumed. Then I can resist or subvert by taking ownership of the whole mess. I make it what I want it to look like.

I use glitches to break down patriarchal structures. I think of the glitch as a sex act. It is a dominant/submissive binary. There is intention in glitching that is beauty. We know it is not ugly. The ultimate infringement of the digital—our human mistake of knowing and understanding.

Femmeglitch: I have used this moniker or description that includes gender. I think identifying the gender in the act is claiming the social and cultural implications of oppressive systems and the glitching is bending those systems, often to their demise. This makes glitching an art form.

biographical note:
Kristine Snodgrass is an artist, poet, professor, curator, and publisher living in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the author most recently of American Apparell from AlienBuddha Press and Rather, from Contagion Press. The proud founder and curator of Women Asemic Artists & Visual Poets (WAAVe), Snodgrass searches to create an online space for women in the asemic and vispo communities to share work, offer support, and network. Her asemic and vispo work has been published in Utsanga (Italy), Slow Forward and featured in Asemic Front 2 (AF2), South Florida Poetry Journal, Voices de la Luna, Brave New Word, and Talking About Strawberries, and forthing coming in Street Cake. She is the art editor for SoFloPoJo. Snodgrass loves collaborating and is always searching for new projects with artists and poets. You can find some of her writing about collaboration at TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism. She is excited about her newest chapbook, zero-zero, poems in collaboration with Maureen Seaton. More about Kristine Snodgrass at kristinesnodgrass.com.


4.5: Scant Moments, Heavy Coats | Gordon Hilgers—poetry

Dale Houseman morphograph #8: Instead of Waiting . . . digital art ©2004

diaphanous micro

4.5: Scant Moments, Heavy Coats | Gordon Hilgers—poetry

morphograph #8: Instead of Waiting . . .
digital art by Dale Houstman

new poetry–Gordon Hilgers

I think I finally reached the human
inside myself. He was no homunculus,
or simulacrum. Bitter yowling at the sun
that echoes inside the uncertainty of
dreams, and deeper cries; primitive
homilies—of utterance, about utterance,
how the first word burbled past the lips,
the fearful lunge beyond loneliness,
a hair-in-the-butter spectacle whereas
where became nowhere, meadowlarks
whistling beyond the windowpane: this
was me. Only for an instant, no lilies,
no blooming, no real sky, a point where
a song squeezes back when you grasp
its hand in the dark, yellowing cotton
adrift in the absurdity of daylight. I am
early morning, I follow footfalls of future,
I knife at the shore like a glint shooting
from a brook, then I go, or went, waking.

Lividly lost, you lie here
beneath starlight’s lost shimmer,
memories of blistered walls
disrupting your delusions of lucre,
your fiction kindling a laughter
that is unnecessary and black.
Dream of your ashen Avalon now,
all its gray angels barking at the sky,
your own breath hollower
than usual. Who looms over
innocence at the wrong end of day?
Who knows its funny flaws,
its dustpan verbosity, its secrecy
the chambermaids clutch?
You whittle intrigue until razor-thin,
your lust a mountain retreat,
ghost moments everywhere,
no cure for lack as galaxies creak
or shiver, a listless, murderous
whim of reasoning. To dream of it,
heartlessness, mosquito’s reflex,
twitching in bleeding dawn, this life
your alien landing in the peat.

Oblivious before the Marxist unknown,
a future-perfect noun gone library-blind as
expectation of the letters will come
amid rumors of rubbish, a jail-cell alive
with endings, water-fountain full of running
small children from the rain because
the myth of the lighthearted is rutted and
raw under the noonday light: Oh, I live
so confused. You do not need to tell me
what I never will know, this endless
trick of all, the most luminescent hour
ever studied, furrowed bandages singing
right where death begins: I start-out
desperate to begin again and condemn
what never was, a saying of solid ground,
ground of being, ground of dream, love.

I remember roots
finding water, celebration
out there in the underground
some somnambulists missed
as thorny slivers shipped-
in from Albania, possibly Naxos,
broken berths, harbor locked,
beachside beer-stand neon-lit
and looking for girls.

What repairs are there inside
the uncertain future? Leavening,
ventriloquists vanquish all
the hopeful flowers, out where
the absentee bedside calls
via coincident clues.

Flat faces hint all night, a braille
lividly commercial and on TV,
scratchy beneath hands
smoothed like paved roads
where bumps have fun. This
is the good error, her brevity of
whip-snap sighs, oozy
bits of blink

as ancients chatter into history.

You’re wandering, lucidly apart from
various dreamlike confusions where sleep
tugs at one stranger’s clothing strangers
might dub a mind, others an animation
or holographic image. Emanating
from your life’s fantasy, you are
the breath of a Chinese dragon,
the creature known as Lung or Long–sign
of good luck, power over rainfall. Groaning
in childbirth, your mother dreamt of you.
Your father tells you her eyes flashed as if
carp, gold flecks lurking in a vexed pond.
Now you simply go. Perhaps some watch;
no matter. Ten thousand miles from home
is but a step in a sky of gloaming grief.

A so-called dove with a stick alerted you
deluge or the end was nearing for a black season
which had brimmed an unintentional metaphor
for chalice with a celestial ocean. How the flecked birds
swiftly neared Columbus’ tiny boats, too, that ache
akin to this day,

only warmer, a desert gone to abasement, all this
from a muddy sky of clay. One day, our forsaken worth
will crack apart, first kiss, sudden grief, a saddened wish
unfulfilled, this thingness of myself gone to below
the way bodies fall, an invisible ephemerality brightly
left to dream. Now you lift,

loving blush wind, sails muttering in codes of old linen,
then olive Sargasso fondles greening keel, new nativism,
pressure’s end, an octogenarian child, a shied grasp
feeling from the shallows if the unreal is tactile,
her fingers wet. I took a breath of this, a long whiff
when my life had gone crazy

into the blizzard. Then I began again, as I always have,
as I plant my grapes late and by the stars and moon,
my back to undertaker’s smile at a black road’s dead end.

Go. Write more mangled approximations
as if to immortalize how the ancient madnesses
sought to tunnel into what breaks the heart open
into goodness or mooniness. Tonight is a sight
of shepherds scanning the sky in a search
for higher treasures

or of a barroom Romeo searching for the right glint
in a sleepy girl’s eyes. Pyrite mistakes itself
for gold, and uncultured accommodations of Sartre
or Camus rock, each part of the desire trip. Love is
now a gangland protection racket, how Crips dub
their dope murder a cap when reason must
be destroyed,

where a life is the stone that finally fills the sea.

Out here in the whitened barrens,
you seek to reinterpret eccentricity with sand,
which isn’t easy. It’s the way we all
sleep in our shadows, or how we do not know
whether anything means more than
the one crowded dream we remember best.
I’ve never reached the Barrens here,
at least not in my sleep. I met a sassy beauty
with black hair, and people I don’t know
kept telling her, Do not trust him! because this
is how revolutions are supposed to be
a stammer into starting like locomotives lost
in the cold. I met one stranger, said,
This is reality, that is civilization, and this is
the people’s will, and over here it’s
merely me and the girl
. I held-down the room

for nearly an hour. Then the cops came
to arrest everyone but us. Beyond a circle
resides more circles, and then the Barrens,
which watches us always from far places,
quick to kiss suddenness, everyplace
a grim new adventure, small days we learn
each unsure step deeper into infinity.

What proof would lie in night’s remains?
This thing, awakened by insistence-as-being:
What is a discovery that all has been forgotten?
Nightfall, typically becoming in red roses
where darkness rises in the east–this mystified
tendency to name it birth–belongs to no one,
even if the man downstairs turns-up his hip-hop
as if he’s waiting too, or if the dove sees
exactly what a coo might mean.

Tell me why there are moments when sleep
brands me with embers, when emptiness is my
final recourse–as if the future is shipwrecked,
the sea presently bloody yet implacably peaceful.
Say to me, There is light in being buried alone,
as if the angels can sleep through insomnia, as if
airport gates mysteriously open,

or as if no one could dare to own an empty life.
I’ve worked around the nonexistent clock, have
danced to broken radios, have deafened
all I could speak beyond grasping, Nothingness
unwilling to hear. Sometimes, unpleasant pain is
the pleasant gift because nobody comprehends
because unseen faces enthrall entire worlds–
those that insist on belonging.

I admit it. I am part of some vast loneliness,
all the foregone galaxies, way out there beyond
the speed of light, persisting as ghosts because
their light is homeless after they’ve gone dark.
Any lunatic can bear this moonlike honesty
like teeth,

and no one says anything, especially not me.

all poetry ©2021

mission statement (poetics):
I’m not one for missions. Paging through recent editions of The Best American Poetry, I discovered I’m apparently not marching in step with those who advocate poetry as a device bent toward social commentary. But then I’ve never had much for what I call the Poetry Billboard 100. That’s not to claim I’m not interested in poetry’s role in effecting social change. I am confronted with the world, and with its sometimes-antithetical human concoction of a world, daily. I often end confused by both, especially by how their collisions shoot out sparks. That’s where I begin: right in the middle of the confabulating and mystification. Sure. I could go with this: “This poem is thinking of ‘creating’ itself (pome) as manifested as a Chinese Pidgin English translation from an American English translation from the Malay, and that from Pashto by way of a number of ancient French translations of a compendium of ‘monad theories of ontological hypotheses’ shoved through a bowdlerized ideation of Derrida’s theories of deconstructionism about some bird I saw that almost got hit by a transit bus this morning at around 10:37 a.m. CST. The versification will be 99 percent Google translator and less than .0001 percent imagination, the rest of the 100 percent pure energy dominated by keyboard strokes,” but why bother?

This is why I am sometimes vilified.

I want poetry that plays as it demystifies, poetry that releases me from the 21st-century’s spellbound infatuation with factual information. After all, if I wanted to be a newspaper columnist, I’d have dwelt on punditry. Is it irritating when someone extols an op-ed familiar as “a poet”? If not, perhaps it should.

biographical note:
Gordon Hilgers has published in Cimarron Review, Red Savina Review, Sequestrum, Chiron Review, and elsewhere. He has a degree in news writing. Go figure.


4.4: a love song to chaos | Sylvia Van Nooten—asemic art (multimedia collage)

Text Tango ink and watercolors on paper asemic collage 18 by 24 inches ©2020

diaphanous micro

4.4: a love song to chaos | Sylvia Van Nooten—asemic art (multimedia collage)

Text Tango
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches

introduction—Krysia Jopek

The moment I saw Sylvia Van Nooten’s “Tango Dance” in a Facebook group, I knew I wanted to feature a virtual show of her asemic art in diaphanous micro. Her multimedia collages utilize ink and watercolors on the two-dimensional surface of paper to contrast and play with indelibility and fluidity, permanence and timelessness, sculpture and dance, product and process. Her titles contrast the linguistic with the purely-aesthetic language of asemic writing. The reader/viewer is actively involved in the human construction of a multiplicity of subjective meanings against the backdrop of potential existential meaninglessness. Her abstract compositions, like that of Kandinsky, create shape and flow while invoking color as “a power which directly influences the soul” (Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Über das Geistige in der Kunst, 1912. Translated from the German by M.T.H. Sadler, 1977). Please enjoy this sequence of Sylvia Van Nooten’s beautiful visual art in A Love Song to Chaos.

Experimental Angel
ink and watercolors on paper
11 by 15 inches


Anatomy of a Flightless Bird
dip pen and ink on paper
8 by 24 inches


Arbitrary Protocols
ink on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Imagination Discarding Filaments
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Internal Map of a Bird
dip pen and ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Love Letter to Chaos
ink on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Mermaid Language 1
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Mermaid Language 2
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Orbital Whale
ink on paper
asemic collage
15 by 22 inches


Poem Denying the Banality of Sunsets
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Saint Goddess Bears the Burden of Red
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


ink, watercolors, and silk on paper
asemic collage
15 by 22 inches


Speaking Ship Sales
(Collaboration with Dixie Denmam Junius)
ink on paper
asemic collage
11 by 15 inches


Text Ballet
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Text Dance
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Text Gavotte
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Text Tango
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
18 by 24 inches


Voicing Nebulae
ink and watercolors on paper
asemic collage
11 by 18 inches


Writing Outside Of Time
ink and watercolors on paper
11 by 15 inches

artist statement

My work has little to do with consciously deciding to create a specific thing. Rather, I will find a shape or a color and see where it takes me. I love ink and watercolor because or the way they blend and create interesting drips down the paper. One small drip of blue might turn into a goddess with silver writing. Collage gives me another point from which to start. By suspending my need to “control” what I am doing, I’m able to create organic forms that often speak to people of different elements of their own thought processes. Asemic writing is what, to me, pulls the pieces together into coherency. Although the writing has no specific meaning, it still has the authority of the written word. Thus, I can be obtuse and concrete at the same time.

biographical note

Sylvia Van Nooten is an asemic artist living in western Colorado.  Asemic art, with its pastiche of “language” and images, allows her to merge texts and painting, creating a hybrid form of communication, which is open to viewer interpretation. Her multimedia collages have appeared in The South Florida Poetry JournalExperiment-O Issue 13, Raw Art Review. The cover of the Summer 2020 edition of RAR features her visual art.

more on Sylvia’s art

She can be contacted by email: sylviavannooten@gmail.com

If interested in purchasing any of Sylvia Van Nooten’s visual art, please contact her by email.

You can also find her on instagram:


photographer, Sylvia van Nooten

4.3: annulets | Gerard Sarnat—new poetry & poetics

published in Inlandia: A Literary Journal The Official Literary Journal of the Inlandia Initute Jul 1, 2020 ©2020

diaphanous micro

4.3: annulets | Gerard Sarnat—new poetry & poetics

published in Inlandia: A Literary Journal
The Official Literary Journal of the Inlandia Initute
Jul 1, 2020

introduction by krysia jopek, Founding Editor of diaphanous micro

It’s a pleasure and priviledge to feature new poetry by the nationally-acclaimed Gerard Sarnat. The first section “from WIPING 2020 SLATE CLEAN  [5+],” a section “from KAFKACETERA  [3], the second section of “Irregular People: M-W-F,”  from his book HOMELESS CHRONICLES: from Abraham to Burning Man (Pessoa Press, 2010), a brief statement of poetics, and previews to four of Sarnat’s published collections of books, all available for purchase on Amazon.

Sarnat’s post-postmodernist, experimentalist poetics builds off and beyond L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. The short lines “from WIPING 2020 SLATE CLEAN  [5+]” scroll vertically but cannot be read quickly because of the surprising jumps within lines and from line to line, the composition’s superimposition of original imagery (abstract and representational words) and contemporary political references. Sarnat critiques the highly-complex, disturbing political reality—skewed by former, twice-impeached president, Donald Trump, his refusal to concede to president-elect Joe Biden, and his dissemination of fake news to his equally-delusional followers. The first line with its apropos reference to Shakespeare’s Macbeth parallels the doomed Macbeth and Trump, especially now as the Senate Impeachment Trial is due to begin in just a few days.

In “Transformation,” the second section “from KAFKACETERA  [3],” the poet utilizes longer lines to create a creative, poetic narrative for the reader to experience as the event of the poem unfolds horizontally versus vertically as in the first selection of Sarnat’s poem featured in annulets. This section of Sarnat’s longer sequence juxtaposes Ashberian everyday American idiom (rooted in the important modernist poetics of William Carlos Williams) with provocative, philosophical inquiry. Sarnat incorporates references to our shared American TV and film tradition with references film heroes: “this latest loopy as if I metamorphed / from Tarzan to Charlie Chaplin.” The second stanza begins with “Daddy, I loved you as the sea horned moon” and speaks to the poet’s close relationship to his children and grandchildren.

Please enjoy annulets! We eagerly welcome comments, shares, and new followers of our diaphanous micro Facebook page. Thank you for reading / spending your valuable time here!

new poetry:

from WIPING 2020 SLATE CLEAN  [5+]

      1. Out Damn Spotify

Mac music faced

ending a weird year


perhaps Pence,

acting as President


not of USA

(unless Trump quits,


is pardoned)

but rather of Senate


rules in favor

of motion to throw


out Electoral

College results…


but no entity

has standing to sue


so then Flynn’s

martial law ensues.


Today you ‘n

I maintain minimal



beyond making real


sure garbage

trucks still come here


plus filling up

the bronze birdbath so


at least robins

can feel clean: males


(they’re much

bigger and redder)


one-by-one dip

in while their ladies


hang back

waiting to use what


could be

maybe considered


this Jewish

family’s mikveh*.


* ritual purification


     2. Transformation

Doors just opened. But this latest is loopy as if I metamorphed

from Tarzan to Charlie Chaplin. Obsessed with onomatopoeia and

assonance boxed sets?  Give me a break: no Hemingway Left Bank

celeb seductee, if muses stalk moi, a Cheeto-eater in underpants

they might stalk anyone. Exceptionally dedicated never to publish

medically (Pops’ published over 400 so far), here I am at 64.


Daddy, I love you as the sea the horned moon.

The sun unconcerned continues its arc.

A she-wolf calls me home.

Martini glass near bare

one last golden egg, the germ I must grow and share



from HOMELESS CHRONICLES: from Abraham to Burning Man (Pessoa Press, 2010)

1. Irregular People: M-W-F, 

i. Monday 

Head of the queue, once proud pro QB, traded his rifle 
for a gun, bizarro ex-con Gerardo charms my inner Howdy Doody,  
     “Hey, Doc Gerard, my brothas don’t buy we’z cousins!”

A hooligan calls hisself Morphyne on the clipboard, 
just in from the tulies, bullshits a med school bud from Willets, 
name can’t recall, wrote him Vicodan, dog ate ‘em – orders more.

“Sorry, Sir, we don’t do pain scripts here. I’m no shopkeeper. 
      Community clinics work better that way 
              for most everyone in the long run.”

     “Screw you, dude, I was told you was different, 
           but you’re a prick like the rest.  
Better be careful – or …”

Covering my back, big black cuz puts an end to that, 
      taunts the outsider, “You’re on the nod, tomato can, 
      – it’s time to move on, and make it quick.”

       Injecting her weekly STD cocktail 
through vermilion slattern Capris, I remind flaming Maria Diana 
      this ain’t the place to transact charnel house commerce.

My Chi-town chum Sam unhooks his bike from the train’s eco-rack. 
       Boom box atop paraphernalia balanced on handlebars, 
                     crossing the ties, he rides over his latest paranoia. 

         “Ger, I’ve definite proof your smirks fibbed all along 
about us both attending O’Keefe Grammar School – why screw  
  my head up the butt of your cryptic uncathartic clinical shit?

 If you closed your eyes, maybe you could finally see something. 
I’m gonna sic Legal Aid on your fucking friendship lip service ass 
                   should you refuse to cease and desist.”

Alma Rose, all kindhearted lard and grins, heartache and breakdowns, 
fiddles brilliant water color beach primitives of now foster twins: 
 I’ll buy one for rent money, try to get some into Stanford’s Fair. 

 My fave Mona Lisa sashays in, mustache trimmed, cig hung. 
      “Doc, is you collecting gutter art or buyin’ runty people? 
In any case, them free sample shemale hormones sure work great!

Ain’t it time you start ooching them Christians 
to raise that long green, get me on the tits and cunt fast track? 
          By the way, what color is they, Poles or Italian?”

A charming diabetic OCDer, Jill’s sexy ex-librarian fingers 
   finger Braille while sipping Styrofoam tea and sugar 

– no NutraSweet ‘til we reopen day after tomorrow.

2. 67% Hopperized Bathos, from Melting The Ice King, 2016

Freshboy eye candy larva, after Latin class in the Harvard Yard, this puerile grub 
put out 2/3’s the hard yards required to acquire Life Magazine’s worn mustachioed 

thrift-shop-Brooks Brothers-tweed-jacket-torn-leather-elbow-patches + pipe persona

An apostate commonly caught up in the wash of a sunny big square state, 

I got taught nodding Yessir to Pops and Gramps about pumping gas, slopping 
the hogs then squeegeeing their crap off the pickup, in the end is what really counts.

Absconding self-conscious introvert, I bathed in Waldorf Cafeteria shadows 
of cigar circles whose prodigies fueled my piggybacking doom: Disregard pale fools
who raised you, kiddo
. That’s what this damaged rube from the other side of the Rockies 

did while the splintered men’s room mirror futilely attempted to dispense PEZ. 
50 years later Nordstrom redoers impart, Crayon remaining hair. Bleach teeth. Switch
out bifocals for contacts
 — which preps this moldering fart for a less than gala college reunion.

a brief statement of poetics:

“Real” life  suffuses my work. High-stress medical career, leisure around family in a forest, confronting climate change. Humor and poetry interact with each other to keep this mid-septuagenarian feeling energetic, happy, and useful. Brave poetry is important to me because such gyrations elevate life, both by reading others’ work (think Rumi, Sylvia Plath, Frederick Seidel, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen)  and creating my own which expresses Sarnat’s voice, makes me happy, perhaps keeps me young(er) Gerry.

more poetry collections by Gerard Sarnat:


Gerard Sarnat’s website

more information on Gerard Sarnat

biographical note:

Gerard Sarnat won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize and has been nominated for handfuls of 2021 and previous Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published including in Buddhist Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Northampton Review, New Haven Poetry Institute, Texas Review, Vonnegut Journal, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, Monterey Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Review, New York Times, London Reader and Review Berlin as well as by Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Chicago, and Columbia presses. He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry is a physician whose built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/resources to deal with climate justice and serves on Climate Action Now’s board. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons and is looking forward to future granddaughters.

at 70th birthday party

diaphanous micro

4.2: ink-antation | Tina Barry — new hybrid writing

Tina Barry
mixed media on paper

new hybrid writing by Tina Barry

The pieces below are part of a series in-progress. I envision this work of fiction eventually appearing in two parts: one-part interview and one-part hybrid writing. The interview, which is set in August 2020, is conducted by James Linette, the editor at Skin Deep: The Magazine of Tattoo Arts. Linette’s guest is Sasha Daniels, the daughter of Rachel Daniels, a famous Russian Jewish tattoo artist, shortly after Rachel’s death from Covid-19. Rachel’s book Tattoos and Other Tortures, considered a seminal work in tattoo literaturewas published in the 1960s and re-released in 2019.

Some of Linette and Daniels’ conversation relates to writing of Rachel’s that appeared in Tattoos and Other Tortures. A lot of the conversation, though, is Sasha describing growing up with Rachel, and the aftermath of the book’s publication. Rachel’s writing begins with awkward English and evolves as she ages.

Some excerpts from the interview:

James Linette: Can we talk about the fallout your family experienced after the book’s publication?

Sasha Daniels: I think about that time now as a tsunami. A wave that appeared suddenly, this great, darkened shadow blocking the sunshine. Then the deluge of destruction that happened immediately after the book’s release, and kept happening, one seismic tremor after another. When Rachel was outed as a tattoo artist, she stopped being seen as a wife and mother, and became this subversive thing. She had kept the tattooing a secret from everyone. Even me. I felt betrayed. Her friends felt betrayed. What little family we had were aghast. More than aghast. Sickened. Wounded. They felt like the book was a mockery of everything they were. And the letters. The antisemitism. It was utterly blatant.

There had been tension between my parents for weeks. Rachel had been agitated. She could barely sleep. She’d go to bed with my father around 11, and by 11:30 I could hear her footsteps in the hall, and then down the stairs. The tea kettle whistled. Sometimes a short blast; other times she’d let it shriek and shriek, until either I’d stand on the stair landing, and I’d scream “Mom!” or my father would run down the stairs and turn it off. Night after night. A couple of times, I’d stand on the landing and look down on her in the living room, pacing back and forth, back and forth. Once I called to her, and she jumped, as if I’d woken her from a trance. She came back up the steps; I have never seen her face like that. Any face like that, really. Huge, dark circles around her eyes — and the eyes. I still shiver. Just empty. Nothing there at all. “Mom,” I’d say, and she’d walk right past me. Never looked at me. Never said anything. I’d go back to bed utterly shaken.

You look skeptical.

JL: Well, I have to wonder if anything is ever really a secret. Especially something as visual as a tattoo.

SD: I didn’t know. Really. You have to understand. At first, Rachel didn’t make tattoos because she liked them, they weren’t an art form for her at all. They were a compulsion she couldn’t control. Something she had to do. She talked about it in Tattoos. Rachel was so conflicted. She was an atheist but the lessons her family taught were ingrained. “You shall not make gashes in your flesh…or incise marks on yourselves: I am the LORD,” which comes from Leviticus, I think.  And here was mom: a cutter and a tattooist. She carried a lot of shame. A lot of secrets.

I think what drove Rachel was much like a cutter’s need to slash open a space and let the anguish out. She tattooed her body for the same reason she cut it: if she didn’t, she’d have gone mad. People see the later photos of her, when she was out as a tattoo artist, and covered from the neck down with her weird drawing-like tattoos. But before I found out, Rachel had kept the tattoos confined to places no one, well, maybe my father, but that’s a whole different conversation, could see. Under her breasts, behind her ears so they’d be covered by her hair, near her crotch, and while I don’t know, and certainly never saw, possibly on or even in her vagina.

Rachel’s writing:

I am in memory  no  not memory

not to remember

we like that in this place

call rooming house   in this room in house

we make forest around skin   keep wolves

out   sometime birds and light

stories same   different

no one say do not talk about before

but we do not     just make little

talk  dog and cat

boy dance with crazy bent arms

like chicken   we laugh

dream of food we miss

sturgeon   herring    cabbage borscht   blini

how our skin now color of sauerkraut

Want cold rain

to numb


Sharp rain

on skin

here   is first time

I feel sting

no    on train too

but not know

not know what sting is

it badness gathered

like black swarm over pond

I want to cut out    not want   need

to cut    must

open little hole in skin

free bad stories from prison

bring file    also poison



One bad story itch

if I get up from bed someone

will lay down on warm spot

warm spot gift    I turn on side    push feet

against sleeping person    press against

me    I tear off long piece of nail

with teeth   it sharp

like small knife

reach hand under shirt

feel for poison spot   push nail deep

blood on fingers   scare me

story leap out and hang there

it scream bad things   then drift

away like poor little boat


JL: Did you ever ask Rachel why she stopped cutting and started tattooing?

SD: Rachel didn’t start inking her body until years after her book came out. She was a cutter up till then. I did ask her once. “Oh, Sasha,” she said. “I make cuts, then I make pictures to cover cuts up.” When I pressed her, which she didn’t like; she would ball up her hands into little fists; she said, “Sasha, it is better way to remember.”

JL: Can we talk about some of those pictures?

SD: Sure.

JL: The igloo.

SD: Journalists and tattooists called that tatt the “igloo,” but Rachel never did. The theme of ice tunnels and paths appear early in Tattoos. Later she started drawing and writing about ice blocks with that orb-shaped, crawl-through entrance, but she referred to it as the “icehouse” or “ice palace.” One winter when I made an igloo on our yard with a friend, Rachel referred to it as a lednik, which is a really crude, old-fashioned ice box.

As Rachel got older, the igloo appeared in different forms: the crude one I mentioned. But there were other ice houses and ice palaces, that originally looked like what they were, and then morphed into chandeliers, and then a single crystal. Mom had a picture of a woman named Anna, who had this elaborate, lacy looking castle that Rachel inked on her back. I asked her why a castle, and she said, “Anna like tsarina.” Supposedly, in the 1700s, there was a tsarina named Anna, who created an insane wedding, where she had artisans carve ice sculptures of swans and deer and fox, then load them onto giant sleds. She made all the guests climb onto the sculptures, and then they were dragged around the castle grounds. I don’t know if it’s true or some kind of folktale, but whenever I was being a pain in the ass, Rachel would say, “Stop complaining, Anna.”


Is ice palace today

with lady of house and daughter

sip tea    two tsarinas

me on knees with wash bucket

scrub floor  little circle  little circle

tsarinas bend together   talk

wedding soon   daughter   want

white dress with long piece behind

to drag down floor   out door        want

snow ball diamond on fat finger          want

violin  flute   piano with many candle     want

opera woman sing   Here is Bride     want

pond full of cherries    want

cake like big white building   touch ceiling

my nails black

in soapy water



Daughter like Russian folktale

tsarina Anna   big mink hat

fur coat to floor   this tsarina

have man face  dark moustache

legs thick logs like in fireplace

daughter say Hel-loooo Ray Chel  Ray Chel

name shutka  little joke

tsarina in folktale make man dwarf marry

stranger lady   spend wedding night

in giant ice palace   guests ride

ice swans   wolf    deer   camel

not warm bed for man  wife

couple sleep on ice in ice palace

bride die

wish cold bed

for this daughter tsarina


JL: In Tattoos, Rachel seemed obsessed with bees. Can you talk about Tailor Bee?

SD: You picked the tatt with the most weighted history, and the one with the most literal interpretation. Briefly, Tailor Bee symbolizes Rachel’s father, who was a tailor in Russia. Under her breasts and in her arm pits, and high up her thighs near her vagina, and possibly on or in her vagina, were tiny upraised spots. She literally sewed “him” to her skin.

After the book came out, she showed me those spots. You know the expression seeing stars? I did. I had to run and vomit in the bathroom. That she did that to herself! It only took 20 years of therapy, but now I understand why, or I think I do. There were times when Rachel sat quietly on the living room couch, or at the dining room table when she thought she was alone, and she’d be completely lost. She’d make these gentle circles with her fingertips over her shirt and under her breasts, as if she could feel the thread beneath her clothing. It scared me as a child, but as I got older, I realized that this trance-like state was something she needed. A way of self-soothing. I’d see her lost there and just walk away.

(“Tailor Bee” comes later in Rachel’s section)

Tailor Bee

I never think before tonight about Papa sewing needle and my inking needle. Why is that? Maybe Papa needle just instrument to make money. One hem so many kopeks. Two sleeves so many rubles. It just thing for him. That is all. Papa not need to hold needle. Like me in basement when Tailor Bee hums in my head so loud I think Sasha and Marty hear it. I feel Papa hand on mine. I see dark hair like barbed wire on knuckles. “Like this, Rachal.” I hear his words, but voice I am forgetting. To forget voice is to forget. I hold needle. Not tattoo needle, sewing needle like Papa use, with thread. I say “Papa.” I do that with family. Feel for spot next to a Mama Bee. Papa Bees are hives under skin. There are many, under breasts, inside legs up where no one see. I like to feel them and know Mama Bee near too. Mama—dot, dot, dot. Papa—stitch, stitch. It hurt, yes, to push needle into skin. To feel thread pull. The first stick make me cry. I want that. It good pain. To take Papa. Stitch him to me. It only time I hear his voice.


published books by Tina Berry:

Beautiful Raft is the fictionalized story of the artist Marc Chagall’s lover Virginia Haggard, and Haggard’s five-year-old daughter Jean McNeil, told in the women’s voices. The story is set in the 1940s, when the family lived for two years in the hamlet of High Falls, New York.

excerpt from Beautiful Raft:


Make my body your raft. A black raft drifting down a slow, bumping river. A happy raft. Your useful raft. Climb on, please. Am I big enough? Are you comfortable? How do I look against the blue water? Should I change color? Should I change the color of the water? I want you to look at me and think, Beautiful raft.


Ida arrives in her city clothes: a hat with a tidy veil, a nipped jacket and tight skirt. I have told her my plans for my afternoon alone: Café. Coffee. Book. Shoo, she tells me. Go! Go! as the children hug her legs. I don’t reveal my real intentions; until I drive to the dirt road and park, I don’t know them myself. I walk along a path that twists and twists deeper into the unknown woods. The stones beneath my sandals guide the way. Trees heavy with emerald fringe a rock-trimmed oval of water. I undress with no shame. No fear of being discovered. Cold circles my knees. Then waist. Then neck. My skin contracts, nipples tighten. I’m a long white eel dividing the dark pond. My laugh, high and keening, a child flung into the air.

Exhausted Opera

The neighbors know me here. “Tall gal.” A toot of the horn. A wave. Eyes on the road, moving on. If they got close, they could probably smell me, as I smell them. The fraught air of chickens. Cigarettes stale or burning on the breath. Always, the fat scent of meat. Can my neighbors smell the man, the children, who feast on me, ticks on a fat hound? Shouldn’t the blue of delphiniums dim in the dark? Shouldn’t the roses’ blousy heads bend beneath the leaves? Crickets hoot a hypnotic opera. Frogs bleat lovelorn laments.


a conversation about writing between Tina Barry & Krysia Jopek—JANUARY 2021

When did you first begin writing hybrid and micro? What is it about the genres that attracts and challenges you?

I started writing memoir pieces about 15 years ago but I had a difficult time telling the truth. I always wanted to write in service to the story, not about what actually happened, so I turned to fiction. About a year into that, I decided to participate in a reading. The readers had no longer than eight minutes each, so I had a great deal of editing to do. What emerged was so much better than the original story. After that, I challenged myself to keep writing shorter and tighter, to express what needed to be expressed in as few words as possible. I was curious at that time too, to see if others were writing very short, under 500-word pieces, and discovered the flash and micro community whose work inspired me.

As my writing evolved, it became more lyrical, more poetic, and I just allowed it to be whatever it wanted to be.

What are you striving to do with the type of persona you construct?

For the past few years I’ve felt the need to do a deep-dive into other people’s worlds, so I’ve focused on the persona prose poem, or some form of it. That’s what I did with Beautiful Raft, which is based on Virginia Haggard, the lover of Marc Chagall, and Haggard’s five-year-old daughter Jean McNeil, who I discovered after I moved from Brooklyn to the hamlet of High Falls, in upstate New York. Chagall and Haggard had lived in the hamlet for two years during the 1940s, and researching their time here, and all the questions that that raised, inspired the writing.

Ink-antation (working title) is fiction, although I’m drawing on my family’s history as Russian immigrants too. Again, I’m exploring a mother/daughter relationship, but this time the daughter is in her sixties, an adult looking back.

I guess what I’m striving for is what any fiction writer strives for: to invite readers into the characters’ worlds and to make those worlds compelling.

How much time do you typically spend each day writing? Do you have any writing practices, habits, or rituals you’d like to share?

I wish I could say that I was a disciplined writer who adheres to a schedule. I try to write for a couple of hours every day. Sometimes I’m successful but often I’m not. On the flip side, I can sit for hours just lost in the work.

Like most writers, I carry a notebook. Often an idea, something I’ve overheard that I might want to use, or a word that I’ve been searching for pops up when I’m away from my desk, so having a notebook helps me to remember. I keep a notebook near my bed too.

Can you speak to your writing process—from the conception of a new piece of writing through its completion.

I sit down with an idea and start writing. Usually, my original idea morphs into something different, and I try to stay out of my way and let the writing go where it wants to go. Then I rewrite until I choke the life out of the piece, go through the earlier drafts, see that the work was most alive at draft 10 or so, and go with that.

How has your experience been with publishing your two books as well as shorter pieces of hybrid and micro in literary journals?

Robin Stratton at Big Table Publishing, who until recently published the Boston Literary Magazine, was the first person to accept my short fiction. When I finished my first manuscript, I sent it to her and was thrilled that she wanted to publish it. That was a great experience, so I wanted her to publish Beautiful Raft too.

A few years ago, I sent a piece to a literary magazine and received a reply from the editor. He said he really liked the work but he wasn’t sure if it was poetry, fiction or creative non-fiction. He published it as fiction, but really, he could have published it as any of those categories. That kind of “What is this?” doesn’t happen much anymore. I see more and more literary journals that ask for hybrid work; the boundaries of what makes a poem a poem, and fiction fiction are blurring.

How do you find which journals to publish your work?

Duotrope is helpful for finding venues to send your work, but there are free sources too. I find Newpages.com and Entropy.org really helpful, as well as Trishhopkinson.com and ErikaDreifus.com. A good way to find information is to join a Facebook group. I’m constantly reading and responding to the posts in the Binders’ groups. The writers there share a lot of information about literary journals, deadlines, concerns about particular publishers; it’s a great resource.

Do you have any advice for writers now navigating the fiction-publishing seas?

My advice is to just keep plugging away, which is easier said than done, especially during those lulls when you’re struggling to get anything down on paper. I try to think of the down times as part of a cycle. The struggle hurts, but it’s the only way to get to better, more fulfilling work. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, find a writer’s group with people whose work inspires you, and who support and challenge you. I have one that meets once a month. I don’t know what I would do without the writers in that group. As for publishing, try not to let rejection derail you. If you believe in a piece, it will find a home.


biographical note:

Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft (Big Table Publishing, 2019) and Mall Flower (Big Table Publishing, 2016). Tina’s poems and fiction have appeared in numerous literary publications such as The Best Small Fictions (Top 13 stories, 2020, and 2016), Inch Magazine, Drunken Boat, Yes, Poetry, Connotation Press, The American Poetry Journal, Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse and A Constellation of Kisses. Tina holds an MFA in creative writing from Long Island University, Brooklyn (2014). She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has several Best of the Net nods. Tina is a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn, Gemini Ink and Writers.com.

Tina Barry’s website: TinaBarryWriter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tina.barry.5/

Twitter: Tinabarry188

Email: tbarrywrites@gmail.com

Photographer: Anya Barry