Joseph Carman, founder of the 555 Collective, recently sat down with an attorney to discuss the creation of a formal entity that would arch over the organization’
Such an experience has become the norm for a man who has lost everything but his 9-year old dog – in search of an altruistic use for humanity’s greatest asset – Art. Such a reaction has come to be expected by someone who tattoos a haiku about trauma and love on his arm, just so some homeless guy can buy himself a roll of toilet paper.
Joseph reveals a memory of the moment he went sane – the culmination of years spent as a psychologist working in federal and juvenile prisons, listening to stories of shattered souls and the screams of children incarcerated by a self-loathing society-
He was interviewing a man in jail, in his 70s, covered with AIDS lesions, sitting across from him, separated by a plexi-glass partition, communicating via a musty, pea-green telephone receiver. The old man related a story about the time his cousin put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, shearing off half his tongue and then sending the bullet down into his throat, to be removed by a surgeon later. The old man pulled out his mangled tongue and then began to convulse as tears rained down his face and dropped onto his orange jumpsuit.
The chomping maw of trauma devours everything in its path – war, crime, disaster, disease - in its wake remain bleeding minds and tortured souls, left to languish inside a cage of dysphoria and rage. To witness its power possess a person is to recognize the true potential for human suffering that exists in this world.
And so it was empathy that drove Joseph away from art, and it was empathy that sent him back. He created the 555 Collective in late 2010, out of the idea that creative energy, like any other natural resource, can be channeled towards the alleviation of pain caused by trauma.
This idea proved easier to demonstrate in action than describe as a concept - and one day, (while watching his dog swim in a pond) - Joseph was struck by the fact that “Haiku” rhymes with “Tattoo”, and thus, Tattoo-Haiku was born.
Tattoo-Haiku, a haiku contest (channeling creative energy) in support of homeless veterans (towards trauma). For a submission fee (five dollars), writers were invited to enter the contest for an opportunity to win Joseph’s ex-wife’s Tiffany diamond ring. The winning haiku would be tattooed on his left-forearm.
The entire amount of cash raised via the entry fees was donated to the joint VA / Colorado Coalition for the Homeless program in Denver, as well as the Colorado Veteran’s Resource Coalition in Colorado Springs. In the end, close to $700 worth of Target and King Sooper’s gift cards, and actual products like shampoo, toothpaste, aspirin, etc., were donated.
The winner was chosen from 60 finalists (all of which shall be published in the Denver Voice newspaper throughout 2013) by Dawne Leiker, an arts editor with the Hays Daily News. Daniel Nathan Cox, of San Diego, wrote the victorious haiku, which has now been etched onto Joseph’s arm:
Trauma is armor
Evil wears it endlessly
But love strips it bare
The winner’s bio: Daniel Cox just celebrated his 25th birthday on November 11th. He is an aspiring screenwriter living in San Diego, California. In his free time he enjoys ultimate frisbee, playing Go, contributing to the emagazine tavernsvault.com, and supporting Manchester United.
For the tattoo work, the 555 has partnered with Kristina Wright, owner of Pens and Needles Custom Tattoo in Colorado Springs, and a retiree of the US Army. Tattoo artist Shanna Keyes created the actual piece, and developed the design of the tattoo as well.
Entries were received nationwide – generated through the 555’s marketing, in addition to publicity received via the Denver Westword. Of course, this was the 555’s first attempt at a major event – imagine the good it will eventually create for both artist and trauma survivor in the future.
Tattoo-Haiku2 is already planned, and will be launched in late December 2012. The contest will be judged by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca (screenwriter of Blood In, Blood Out). The haiku will be tattooed once again at Pens and Needles. The prize is a $555 gift card to Amazon.
For more information, visit the 555’s online magazine at http://www.555c.org.
Contact Joseph@555c.org or 720-746-8597.