Poetry Facts

17 Perfect Poetry Tattoos to Express Your Individuality

Last Updated: September 14, 2022
poetry tattoo

Poetry has long been praised for its intensity in evoking emotional power. A poem can easily express the whole gamut of emotions through a limited number of words, from love, appreciation, optimism, and humor to suffering, fear, or desperation.

The visual art and emotional response in poetry have made poetry tattoo the best way to express your personality and individuality to the world. Below are poetry tattoos that might be a “perfect piece of art” when you’re looking for “new ink” as a tattoo lover.

1. Your Father’s Last Wish

YOUR FATHER’S LAST WISH poetry tattoo ideas
Source: Pinterest

The whole poem is a father’s last wish sent to his child when his death is about to come. The pain comes from the fact that he can’t fulfill the role of a father by staying by their side in the upcoming future.

Still, the last sentence in the poem contains the most profound feeling of a father toward his beloved child: 

“Let love, your first cause, also be your last.” 

Go on with yours and make it full of pride and love since he loved you more than anything. The love consigned in 9 simple words makes it a beautiful tattoo inked into somebody’s soul.

2. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou literary tattoos
Source: Pinterest

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

Written by Maya Angelou, a black woman, “Still I Rise” has become a ringing assertion of dignity in the face of oppression. Facing prejudice, racism, and hatred from society, you can still survive and thrive “like air.”

3. Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson literary tattoos ideas
Source: Pinterest

Ulysses is a poem written by the famous English poet, Alfred Tennyson.

The poem exposes the restlessness and discontent of the hero after his far-ranging travels and reunion with his family.

Deep inside his soul, the old hero yearns to explore again and reclaim his lost glory in a final adventure on the seas.

“To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”
“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

By reflecting a robust individual identity, this poem has become one of the best tattoo ideas over time.

4. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver literary tattoos ideas
Source: Tumblr

“You do not have to be good.”

Such a simple sentence, but the poet furthers this message and puts in a higher level of meaning by using specific images from nature, particularly the “Wild Geese.”

The poem has become a healing balm on oneself who’s still troubled by the need to be proven “good” under the pressures of life.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves”

We are human, though. After all, we’re still “an animal” who needs to survive and thrive, just like other animals in nature.

5. The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver tattoo ideas
Source: Pinterest

“Summer Day” is another poem by Mary Oliver whose main theme focuses on the beauty of nature in small things that we take for granted in life. Every line in “The Summer Day” is a metaphor for how precious life is and reminds us to handle it with care.

In the end,

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

The last question inspires so much to lovers of ink when touching on the longing to live a meaningful life and break free from habitual patterns.

6. The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver

The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver tattoo ideas
Source: Pinterest

“Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.”

Something about this poem reflects the loss, grief, and bitterness when it comes to the eleven-word stanza at the beginning. But, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Uses of Sorrow” is a love poem. However, instead of being a love statement, the verse mentions the duality of a break-up in a positive way.

No matter how painful the past was, we can learn from brokenness, choose to keep going, and look back at the darkness as a gift.

7. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost tattoo
Source: Kathy Parker

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a poem in the “New Hampshire” collection by Robert Frost, published in 1923. It was told from the perspective of a wagon driver who stopped by some woods on a snowy evening.

The man was attracted to both the darkness and the alluring beauty of the woods, distinctly separate from human society. However, the speaker knows that she or he “has promises to keep” and completes the journey.

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

 This tattoo is kind of a quiet reflection of those who struggle between social obligations and personal desires. The wood represents the speaker’s wish to rest when he or she is worn down by long travel and social responsibility.

8. Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Invictus by William Ernest Henley tattoo
Source: Pinterest

Compared to other poets, the author of Invictus, William Ernest Henley, went through a terrible period after being diagnosed with tubercular arthritis. He had no choice but to accept the amputation of one leg and endure the pain of several surgical interventions on his foot. “Invictus” was written during his recovery in the infirmary.

With a solid rasping, voice defying fate, the whole poem reflects the admirable resilience of the human spirit.

“I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

9. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot tattoo
Source: Pinterest

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” can be considered a dramatic monologue of a man narrating the preoccupations and anxieties in his life.

The author used poetic language to depict his indecision when it came to the excessive preoccupation with doing the “right thing” under the influence of relationships. Paralyzed by indecision, he’s always in a feeling of inadequacy and pushes himself into an intensive struggle between action and inaction.

Overcoming indecision requires agency, but the author remains trapped in his repeating patterns when “wanting to act” isn’t enough. All these complicated emotions are strongly indicated through the question.

“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

10. Heavy by Mary Oliver

“That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying
I went closer,
and I did not die.”

How do people feel when they cope with the loss of their loved ones?

Oliver’s “Heavy” was written after the death of her life-long partner, and it has become one of the most famous poignant poems about the pain we feel when our loved ones leave us.

It is common sense when we strive to experience the difficult grieving process. But grief isn’t the main emotion embedded in the whole poem. Oliver saw grief as part of loving, since, in the end, we don’t have a choice but to let it shape our lives and move on.

11. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye tattoo
Source: Pinterest

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.”

The poem is like a comforting word for those who have lost a family member or friend. A loving soul will continue to exist even after death. Through her poetry, Mary encourages us to look beyond the grave for our loved ones with a tone of comfort and peace.

12. Footprints in the Sand by Mary Fishback Powers

Source: Pinterest

“Footprints in the Sand” is a metaphor for our faith in God, who will be by our side and carry us through the most difficult times.

When we come to the last scene of our lives and look back, there are usually 2 sets of footprints in the sand. One belongs to us, and the other belongs to God.

But the poem becomes uplifting when it comes to the final lines:

“When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

13. How Is Your Heart by Charles Bukowski

How Is Your Heart by Charles Bukowski tattoo
Source: Pinterest

Bukowski is well-known as a prolific underground writer whose works concentrate on the depravity of urban life and the downtrodden in American society.

Based on all of his experiences in life, Bukowski describes a strange happiness brought on by his hard times. The author compares his worst experiences when recounting the rock-bottoms, like waking up “in a cheap room in a strange city,” to “the craziest kind of contentment.”

To some extent, he self-congratulates and pities himself at the same time in the face of hard reality. It doesn’t matter how difficult life may seem.

“What matters most
is how well you walk
through the fire.”

He revels in the freedom of down-and-outness and having nothing at all to lose.

14. She Flies With Her Own Wings by Ruth Kephart

Source: Pinterest

There will be countless hardships and invisible bonds that prevent us from staying true to ourselves.

“Caged by life own cruelty,” some let these burdens and challenges break them down until they’re no longer the person they once were.

However, there will always be a door for those who are determined to hold their fates in their hands and live a fulfilling life.

“She flies with her own wings.”

No matter what happened in your past, it’s up to you who can determine your values.

15. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Source: Pinterest

This is a line from The Raven, one of the most popular poems by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a tale about a man who is unable to forget his lost love Lenore. As he opens the door and desperately tries to find his love, but it’s just “darkness there and nothing more”.

16. Tonight I Can Write by Pablo Neruda

Source: Pinterest

You know that feeling when we are in love, time passes so quickly. But the time when we have to forget our lost loves, time feels so long. This line “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” by Pablo Neruda reflects that perfectly.

17. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Source: Pinterest

This is a line from The Bell Jar by the extraordinary poet Sylvia Plath. It comes from a character named Esther, who had a crucial opportunity to get rid of her past and start a new life back in society. “I am, I am, I am” is her reassurance of her place in the world.

Final Words

All the poetry tattoos have special meanings related directly to their owners. It can be the entire poem or just a few lines or words from that poem that impacted you the most.

If you want to find yourself a poetry tattoo that touches your soul, just let it come to you in its most natural way.

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