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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Scent Signals

I love the sound and feel of this one. It seems to have captured the cycle of life. And yes, going into the grave is courageous - we can be so disconnected from it in our society. I think it's good to stare it down on occasion. - minette

Gail S

Your interpretation of the poem sounds similar to mine, although I of course have no perfuming skills to go along with it :) I also find the vetiver/mitti base very intriguing and can hardly wait to smell it!


I love the dark imagery Lisa has given here and the injection of hope. Very interested in smelling how the light patchouli, sandolwood and tonka bean can lighten up the blend.

Nicole Meredith

You had me at the mitti/vetiver blend! I'm also very intrigued by the combination of spikenard and ylang.

Lisa, i completely empathize with injury/illness taking an artform away from you (i relate) and am so happy that you've found fulfillment in the world of perfume.

I have to say, I find the personal nature of this project very touching, and once again can't wait for the next entry!


I just found this site, while looking for more perfume blogs, and it was an added pleasure to find one that encorporates poetry and art. Wonderful!


WOW!....the evocative & thought provoking prose along with the apropo elegant & engaging essence selections made me swoon....beautiful


I got shivers all up and down the my back and arms while reading your description, Lisa. I hadn't connected to the poem in the way that you describe, but you have perfectly captured my mixed feelings about that time of transition between winter and the sunny side of spring, when the smell of wet, bracken earth is everywhere, and the brand new leaves on the trees and the new grass is almost too green. I think connecting the notion of earth, death and rebirth with oudh is absolutely perfect, too.

Altogether, I just admire your bravery in going all the way into the grave for your inspiration.

I wonder, are there other perfumes inspired by death in this way?

DW Rosengard

It never occurred to me to consider this poem as a kind of eulogy, though that particular interpretation of "apparition" in intriguing. I like the use of black pepper in the top note!

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