In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
- Ezra Pound -
I went through a Lost Generation phase in my teens. And have always been a fan of Ezra Pound. These kinds of Minimalist poems are perhaps the most informative. No fluff, no posturing. Just cut to the chase and be done with it.
The first thing that popped into my head after reading this were the words Sweet Decay. It reminds me of a time long gone. And yet is still relevant today. The death of mankind, the death of nature. And perhaps, rebirth is in there somewhere. Between the lines.
Also, and for reasons that I am not concerned with analyzing. I immediately thought of the Degas painting, “The Absinthe Drinkers.”
I imagined what that room might smell like, and decided that it smelled like Sweet Decay. The end of something that never quite had it’s day. It smelled like the Station, The Black Bough, and countless other things that pull our minds to a place of nostalgic reverence.
This smell is of the earth, the attic, years of cooking and smoke clinging to old walls. Brittle books half eaten by bugs and rats, and the faint sweetness of an old corsage.
Here is a formula for a fragrance that pulls all of those things together for me:
Oakmoss 50%, 6
Labdanum 50%, 4
Atlas Cedar 6
Heliotropin 20%, 6
Agarwood (Indian) 50%, 4
Birch Tar 15%, 2
Cepes 20%, 2
Oriental Fragrance Base, 4 (custom blend of vanilla, frankincense, sandalwood, and amber)
Set into a 1x Orris tincture
SOIVOHLE' Parfume Moderne / Liz Zorn Perfumes
Liz Zorn is, in many ways, the perfect perfumer to close our Pound/Metro "Perfume in a Poem" series. Within her perfume line, Liz Zorn Perfumes, now called SOIVOHLE' Parfume Moderne, she brings together two themes which are suggested by Pound's haiku and which have found resonance again and again in the works of the perfumers here: nature and the man-made world. She distinguishes the two modes of perfume artistry as "Modern Natural," perfumes which contain only materials of natural origin, and "Mixed Media," in which she artistically complements natural materials with high-quality synthetics. On her website, www.SOIVOHLE.com, she explains the distinctions:
Modern Natural - Expanding the art of natural perfumery to meet the sensibilities of the 21st century. Our blends contain only materials of natural origin, including traditional materials such as essential oils, absolutes, balsams and resins. We also incorporate smaller amounts of natural plant and essential oil fractions, custom tinctures and modern plant extracts. This allows us to expand our palette considerably, which also allows for a more complex and interesting natural fragrance. Contains natural materials.
Mixed Media - We believe that a high quality perfume must contain high quality materials. So we patterned our line of Mixed Media Perfumes on the early days of Modern Perfumery, when fragrances were still created using a high level of quality natural materials, and only complimentary additions of alternative media. An old-school-meets-new-age approach that allows us to take advantage of the most current breakthrough innovations in scent, as well as staying grounded in the luxury of natural essence. Contains natural and man made materials.
Within the natural range, my firm favorite is the dark, spicy vetiver of Underworld, which contains all the elements that a perfume of that name should include: three different varieties of vetiver, cinnamon, cocoa absolute, coffee absolute, ginger lily, labdanum, pomegranate absolute, rose absolute, geranium leaf, birch tar, vanilla, sweet amber, Jasmine auriculatum absolute, angelica, mosses and woods. At times, Underworld smells as inviting and comforting as a cup of warm, spiced tea, and then in the next instant it is thunderous and complex with leathery notes and dark, mossy woods. The floral elements serve to round out the overall composition of this outstanding blend, which should be on any vetiver lover's to-try list.
From the Mixed Media line, the fascinating blueberry-lavender Allegory and the exotic Calcutta are simply phenomenal. Allegory is among the most beautiful lavender blends I've ever tried, and the addition of blueberry, tobacco, and osmanthus on a base of smoky vanilla makes it one of the most unusual. Calcutta, from the "Good Luck Series" of Mixed Media perfumes is, my husband tells me, an extremely accurate rendition of Indian temple incense. He spent part of his childhood in various ashrams in India, and the first time I wore Calcutta, he said I smelled exactly like the incense that he remembered burning throughout many of those cities. I have never been to India, but Calcutta, with notes of Pandanus flower, sandalwood, cardamom, and smoky resins, must capture the very best of the aromas that India has to offer.
Liz Zorn is not only an accomplished perfumer, but also an active blogger, visual artist, and poet. Her visual art has been widely exhibited, and examples of her series of black-and-white floral photographs, two of which are displayed here, can be viewed at lizzorn.com. Her poetic sensibility is evident in her deeply-felt blog entries, which have convinced me that she is more like me than perhaps any perfumer I've come to know. Or perhaps it is that I wish I was more like her... She does not shy away from the darker realms of inspiration, but she does remember to come back to the surface and frequently reflects on those passages. Reading her blog is a fascinating and thorough education in the daily challenges and joys of a modern perfumer's life.
She recently posted a few lines on her blog regarding the development of the "Perfume in a Poem" project. I have reread this entry often and feel it is a beautiful encapsulation of the process of allowing artistic inspiration to reveal itself:
A zillion things can spark a memory. Set a mood and turn an intangible idea into a tangible reality. A reality that can be held in the hand, or experienced in some tactile way. My own way of experiencing this, as a creative process, comes through the invoking of stillness, and the calming of spirit. Which allow the memories to come and go. Ideas to skate along on the surface, until something clicks, and the profundity of things not seen blend seamlessly with an intense visceral knowing, that is powerful enough to make the transition between worlds complete.
An image like: Petals on a wet black bough, can then transform into anything imaginable. And we as journeymen, can connect the dots of experience and circumstance.
I look out my window and think of times long past.
Smells and spirits that linger on the air,
In the earth, and on my lips,
Unspoken, and fingertips.
Waiting, watching in silence.
Like the Raptor, for something to move.
Samples of any five of Liz's beautifully blended fragrances, from either or both lines, can be ordered at SOIVOHLE.com. For those who are familiar with the previous incarnation of the perfumes under the Liz Zorn Perfumes brand, none of those fragrances will be discontinued - you can still special order many of the fragrances found at lizzorn.com. A sample of one of her most popular scents, the spicy rose perfume extrait Sinti from the Modern Natural line, will be included in our grand giveaway prize on March 31.
UPDATE: Liz has also made the scent she describes for us here and a sample will go to our lucky Grand Prize Winner!
"L'Absinthe" by Edgar Degaa. 1876. Photo of Liz Zorn, "English Rose" and "Tulips" courtesy of the artist and used with her permission.
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.