Mandy Aftel: Perfume in a Poem
Yosh Han: Perfume in a Poem

Lisa Fong: Perfume in a Poem


In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
  Petals on a wet, black bough.

by Ezra Pound

The poem gave me a feeling of being underground and looking up through a hole.  This underground space became a grave, six feet under ground. The Metro is also underground, dark, gloomy, and alienating. 

The people are apparitions, which I felt meant ghosts or persons who have died and passed into memory. 

I started with base notes which would smell like the earth underground and/or a subway in a large city.  For this I used a vetiver and mitti blend.  Mitti is an essence which is actually made from the earth.  I wanted oiliness and decay.  The colors I saw were black, grey, brown, and mossy green.  I used a very heavy oud to accent the base.  The oud is very dark and intense and also beautiful. 

PetalsThe "death" image I felt from this verse was not just a physical death, but death that comes before a change.  Death is the end of something and also the beginning, so there is hope of something new. 

The hope for me was the petals on the bough, petals associated with spring and rebirth and also referencing the faces in the first line. Therefore the base had to have also elements of light and a taste of sweetness.  For this I used sandalwood, light patchouli, and tonka bean. 

The middle notes continued the earthy theme leading to a hopeful rebirth with green spikenard, shamama attar, and honied notes of ylang concrete.  Top notes are ginger lily, ambrette, and black pepper.

Lisa Fong
Artemisia Natural Perfume

Editor's Note:

Lisa Fong was an accomplished professional violinist when neck pain and several surgeries forced the window shut on her career as a musician.  According to a 2007 interview originally posted on Noteworthy Fragrances,

"Lisa's window opened wide when she discovered Mandy Aftel's book, Essence and Alchemy.  'I felt like I had a new direction.  I took some classes with Mandy Aftel and began making natural perfumes like crazy.  It was a very healing thing.'" 

After seven years of passionate artisan perfumery, Lisa remains a longtime student of Aftel's, and is also a teacher endorsed by the Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild, conducting her own classes on the art of 100%-natural perfumery in the Sacramento and Oakland/Bay area for over six years.  She opened Artemisia Natural Perfume in 2004.

Currently, Lisa has several fragrances in production with several others in the works. Of those available through the Artemisia Natural Perfume website, I particularly love Voile and Edenwood - they are both soft, warm beauties which make me feel as though I've been given a personal gift every time they touch my skin.  Voile was inspired by the music of Debussy and the musical influence is easy to imagine when wearing this very sensuous blend which is "bright and warm as a summer breeze. The main notes are orange blossoms, frangipani, neroli, and gentle jasmine. Authentic ambergris lends it's velvety warmth to myrrh, vetiver, and lavender concrete base notes. Voile is a light, fresh floral fragrance." 

Edenwood, on the other hand, "is a study in opposites. One theme blends the bright green notes of linden blossom, wintergreen, and celery seed. The second theme combines the dreamy, lush notes of tuberose, ginger lily, aged patchouli, and rich vanilla-scented tonka bean. Together the complex ingredients create astonishing memories of forests, lakes, and meadows." Paris underground tunnel

Lisa's Custom "In a Station of the Metro" Fragrance:

As a part of the Perfume Inside the Poem project, Lisa not only penned her thoughts on how to make a fragrance inspired by "In a Station of the Metro," she actually made this utterly intriguing peppery/earthy perfume, and is offering samples on her site!  I have had the honor and pleasure of trying it, and I find that Lisa's commentary on the perfume very accurately portrays its essence.  With a masterful touch, she deftly blends sharp pepper with the complexly beautiful ambrette and spicy lily for an opening that is unforgettable.  The heart of warm, sweet ylang and spikenard serve to amplify the dark and intimate base of powdery tonka, dry woods, grassy vetiver and the rich, soothing aroma of earthen mitti.  At the bottom of it all, exactly the right touch of dark oudh.  It might be a bit difficult for some to wear, but for others, it will no doubt be a uniquely rewarding challenge.  It is fascinating from start to finish.   I urge each of you to acquire one of these for yourself while they are available.

Stay tuned to Lisa's site, Artemisia Natural Perfume, for more information on the release of this very special poetry-inspired perfume.


Metro Perfume Giveaway

Photo of St Michel Station tunnel in the Paris Metro system via
Photo of petals on a bough via noctrune at Flickr.
Photo of tunnel under Paris via by way of Flickr.

Comments are encouraged!  Please read the initial post in this series for the details on our extraordinary giveaway which will take place on March 31.

Posts prior to 2015 first appeared on my previous website, memory & desire (


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The dark earthiness appeals to me as well, mostly as a part of my attraction to base notes por lo general. What is a basenote anyways? Is there a particular smell that can be called base? Or is it just an essence that has a slower rate of evaporation than the other oils it is blended with? Or can it even be the tale/tail of a single essence? As a concept, as an experience, it is the base of a scent, the seat, the back - the last image of smell. How does the exit match the entry? A story. Beginning middle and end. Pretty. Haunting. Desperately clinging until the last. Watch it walk away until it turns the corner.


such an astute comparison! metro station as a grave. it makes the blossoms all the more precious.


I thought this interpretation unique and she uses some of my favorite notes like Oud and Ambrette. The dark earthiness appeals to me; especially in combination with the elements such as Ylang and Tonka.

Catalina Castells

The mitti and oud particularly speak to me in this post. Fantastic!


The imagery (underground, ghosts) and color impressions make the basenotes sound so appropriate. I would love to smell this through its transitions!

Ruth Ruane

I don't know Lisa Fong, but from what I am reading I'm guessing she is a fearless perfumer, the notes she has chosen shows that she thinks outside the box and will take a risk for the sake of creativity.
Her interpretation of the poem, as another reader says, made me shiver, a real "somebody has just walked over my grave" sort of feeling.


Wow, I desperately want to smell this! I love the interpretation of "apparition" as death, and of death as change. This scent sounds amazing to me.

Darlene Johnson

I really can't find the words, only that I would be interested in finding out what this would smell like- intriguing minds want to know....


Wow. I'd not thought to interpret the poem in this way, but it really resonates with me now. I would love to smell this chthonic rendition of the poem!

Robert Upton

I was hesitant in the grave and death references. But then you reminded me of a new beginning. This can be literal or metaphoric. This is Vetiver. Deep underground, but with the warm glow of life beyond the surface.


Dark, gloomy, mysterious yet fascinating is how I imagine Lisa's composition would smell. The Vetiver, Sandalwood, Patchouli and Spikenard all sound dark and intense giving this composition that raw, masculine and intriguing allure.


When I first read the poem, I thought of the people as living, coming out of the train. With her interpretation, I flashed to the movie, "Atonement." The fragrance sounds as if it has captured her interpretation of the poem perfectly. I am off to check out her site.


Knowing Lisa, I am so proud of her individual journey and bravery in interpreting the poem and expressing it from her subconscious take on it. She is a natural perfumer that creates fragrances of elegant and spare grace, always softly nuanced and deep. I will be eager to smell the sample of her perfume for this project.


What's so interesting about this interpretation is that it is so far from Pound's initial emotional experience. This is part of the power of the poem. Pound was trying to capture a moment, an experience of beautiful faces, and pared it down so far that the beauty of the faces itself became elusive. So despite its distance from Pound's starting point, Lisa's interpretation seems utterly true to the poem.


i came here through Mr. Tauer, but i have to say that Lisa's description and interpretation are both utterly captivating. it is very Tarot in its representation, and i am thrilled she actually made this scent.


How wonderful, not to shy away from the dark and profound aspects that this poem conjured.

I find the intense earthiness described very appealing, along with the 'salvation' or relief facet of floral promise.


Such an interesting interpretation of the poem, and being a fan of oud, I have a feeling I would love this scent. How generous and incredible to know that this perfumer has actually created this scent and is offering samples on her website. Wow!! Thank you, Lisa.


I'm thoroughly enjoying reading the different scent interpretations of this poem! Thank you!


The Mitti and Vetiver has me interested.... I have just come in from my garden where there are lots of ginger lilys flowering... i love the smell and can really appreciated your blend..... im going to order a sample!


Wow -- this one sounds intense and complex. And I want to smell it! What a deep interpretation of the poem. I love deep and intense and complex...

I'm loving this endeavor so far, and can't wait to see what else is forthcoming...


Heather,this is a wonderful project and says so much about the perfumers it has inspired to participate. The poem's spare images present themselves as base middle and top notes. I love the sound of Lisa's base----the underground,earthy, wet black bough.

Thanks so much.


I am new to the perfume saga but not new in the poetry scene.Ezra would have never dreamt of such scents comming about, from his apparitions.What was for him , a long black trail with images of colorful flesh tinging his lonely solitude at the station, one not of metro, but rather of life where we would stop and hesitate about all our dreams.. For only apparitions "on a black dough" can speak us again at such a moment.
If Pound ever scented his poems, he would search them in a quest like Mandy Aftels' and Merlines' where words turn into whims of colourful souls, lights and heavenly smelling words...


How evocative to use Mitti - the fragrance of the Indian earth as the first monsoons come, combined with vetiver and oud - this must be an incredible note.
For those who may be interested there is a detailed account of Mitti production here...


Wow, such a different perception of the poem and what it means...

I love the base notes suggested by Lisa, the smell of moist earth is just something so natural and beatiful.


I loved your description, Lisa and the notes you've
chosen do seem to evoke your interpretation. I especially loved the idea of using the vetiver and mitti blend, which seems to symbolize not only decay but also the cycle of life...mitti which means dirt/mud/earth in Hindi can also refer to that which one is made of.

Can't wait for the rest of the posts..

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