Ralph Waldo Emerson
"To Ellen at the South"
Poetry was my first passion and has outlived many other of my obsessions. But in recent years it has shared space in my heart with another: perfume. And so, to combine the two in my own mind and to share with others what might also be of worth, this blog is dedicated to poetry and perfume. Perhaps it will become a sort of anthology of scent. There are many, many writers in the blog world and elsewhere who have written masterful and elegant reviews of nearly every perfumed substance imaginable. I love their work and hope to share links to their work on this page. I may post an occasional review; however, the genuine life in a perfume (for me) is not how it smells, per se, but what it evokes. At the best of times, that evocation feels and sounds and looks like poetry.
I begin with a quote that surprises even me - I'm not an Emerson fan, but this last stanza from "To Ellen, at the South" struck me as joyous and adventurous. The rest of the poem is, for my taste, a bit heavy on the "O hasten, tis our time" language. In perfume terms, archaic language is like an overdose of smoky rose that can only successfully remind me of little beads of caustic pink potpourri sitting in a dish on the back of the toilet in my grandmother's cigarette-hazed house. To all grandmothers, mothers, babysitters, and just humans in general: please get rid of your rose-scented potpourri. This stuff put me off rose perfumes for most of my life, a real loss to me, as some of the most admired perfumes contain armloads of roses. And yes, most of them still remind me of a bathroom.
Poems and perfumes function in similar ways: they can evoke a memory that isn't a memory; they can inspire ideas which seem to come from nowhere yet seem intimately familiar. I haven't yet found a poem that captured my grandmother but when I do, it will wind up here. Perhaps that's when I'll know it's time to move on to some other project.
But until then, I hope this space will lead someone to a poem or fragrance that would have otherwise remained foreign and unexplored.