Rachel Jones: Perfume in a Poem
Christophe Laudamiel: Perfume in a Poem

Vero Kern: Perfume in a Poem

Kern's Metro Collage

Fragrant Thoughts On:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

On "In a Station of the Metro"

This is how Ezra Pound introduces his famous haiku:

"Three years ago in Paris I got out of a "metro" train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion." (Ezra Pound, 1916)

I read this text again and again, desperately seeking for some inspiration--for some very sophisticated and intelligent answers or pictures--in English!  Very quickly, my mind got stuck on the line, "In the station of the Metro.”  My brain worked like mad, and in my imagination I went downstairs to the Paris Metro, which I use often and love deeply.  In my mind, I even moved over to the Tokyo Metro briefly but subito [suddenly] I returned to Paris.

I love the underground entertainment of the Paris Metro. Walking through endless tunnels and corridors and looking into faces as they pass by is always a real pleasure.  Tourists, musicians with complete orchestras, working people, beggars, crying kids, chatting men, reading women, kissing couples… many languages weaving around; the Metro has a very special atmosphere and is its own world, full of many different human beings with the same desire: getting onto or off the next Metro train! The contemporary Metro is a living “Opera Buffa,” a stage for all sorts of individuals while traveling from A to B.

But the very best thing about the Metro, for me, is the huge ocean of different smells which concentrate into a particular Metro smell. It can’t be described because it’s all emotion… (I’m afraid my Ezra Pound Metro haiku interpretations aren’t very brilliant - I feel somehow LOST IN TRANSLATION - but can always console myself that in German I probably would “do” better…  Voilà.)

The perfume with a big H dedicated to Ezra Pound's Metro Haiku and specially created (virtually) for Heather Ettlinger would be a golden, glowing extrait de mimosa combined with the most enjoyable notes of jasmine de Grasse and some kinky neroli petals.

And last but not least, the very special, mysterious, naughty base note of this fragrance will be… the Paris Metro note: the specific sweet rubber smell from the wheels… and others not detectable. The Scent of GOOD (Metro) VIBRATIONS! 

Why this perfume?  I can’t explain why. It’s just how I feel this haiku should smell, and how I imagine Heather, who initiated this.  C’est ainsi que je le sent!  ["And thus, this is how I feel!"]  But it's more than feeling: "SENTIR" in French means both, smelling and feeling.

Haikus, poems, and scents have all the same source:  a “need” to explore emotions and feelings. For me, creating perfumes is an endless love story – as lovely as falling into sudden emotion – just by smellingwordless.

Vero Kern
Zürich, Switzerland
15. March 2008

Editor's Note:

At the beginning of this year, I posted a message on Perfume of Life, asking for recommendations of artisanal fragrance lines.  This current project - Perfume in a Poem - had not yet formed in my mind, but I already knew I wanted to know more about the artists who take all the risks and actually bring fragrances to life for our enjoyment.  Vero Kern In addition to the many other excellent recommendations offered in that forum thread, writer Denyse Beaulieu (carmencanada), suggested that I explore vero.profumo by Swiss perfumer Vero Kern.  Suddenly people came out of nowhere, sending me personal messages and emails, seconding the recommendation, urging me to seek out Vero's poetic soul--and telling me that I must, at all costs, try her Onda perfume.  Before I'd gathered my thoughts to write to Vero, Helg of the Perfume Shrine generously offered to send me a sample of Onda. (Click here for her interview with Vero).  The day it arrived, I ripped open the package excitedly in the car on the way from the mail box.  I will never forget the moment I first smelled Onda on my skin; I was utterly enthralled and transported.

Those who have tried it can tell you: it's unlike anything else (with the possible exception of the legendary Guerlain Djedi). Onda calls to mind the great classical fragrances that no longer exist in their original state--full of raw aromatic power, class, mystery, and originality.  Vero Kern's Onda is, to put it simply, astonishing.  From a distance, it is slightly sweet, smoky, and warm.  Up close, it is earthy, sleek, rich, and erotically charged.  Helg has compared it to a magnificent jungle tigress,  Gaia of the blog The Non-Blonde calls it "Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Paulette Godard and Ingrid Bergman. Beautiful, dramatic, and romantic."  And when I shared it with my dear friend and fellow perfume-obsessed writer Alyssa (sweetlife), her first exclamation was "Where'd she get her time machine?"   

Without a doubt, Onda is a world of its own.  With notes of grassy vetiver, mace, ginger, and coriander, It requires a particular sort of confidence from its wearer.  I wrote Vero to tell her how greatly I admire Onda, and with characteristic kindness, warmth, and charm, she praised those who wear it: "It is indeed a perfume which specially delights and fascinates fragrance connoisseurs, artists, unconventional people." 

The vero.profumo line offers two other perfumes as well, Rubj and Kiki.  A Paris-trained perfumer and aromatologist, Vero invested five years in creating her first three extraits de parfum, each of which encapsulates a unique feminine world in miniature. The small flacons contain a highly concentrated fragrance extract which is applied directly to the skin using the cap of the flacon. Of the perfume-creation process, she has written,

"The highly personal character of my perfumes is the 'concentrate' of multifaceted, unique and incredibly vivid aromatic experiences which have always motivated me and been a part of my life.  For me, creating a fragrance is like looking into a kaleidoscope, in the way that the colorful fragments constantly form and re-form amazingly beautiful and infinitely diverse patterns and pictures."

All three of Vero's creations (including a samples of each) can be purchased directly from Switzerland through her website vero.profumo.  The very lucky winner of our exclusive March 31 grand giveaway will receive a sample of Vero Kern's amazing Onda perfume extrait along with samples from each of the other perfumers represented in the Perfume in a Poem project. 

Metro Perfume Giveaway


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 (memoryanddesire.net).


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


i was in paris many many years ago (as a kid) and one of the only things i remember about the metro was the sheer number of people. another was how short a time the doors were open at each stop. but reading this impression, i smelled the rubber of the tires as if i was there again today.

Ruth Ruane

This perfumers interpretation is all about connections. Connecting faces and peoples and cities that are miles and years and worlds apart. In a very clever, classic and sensual way Vero has epitomised the poem in her creation. Excellent stuff!


What a beautiful interpretation! The inclusion of rubber is so surprising and so perfect. I truly enjoyed reading this post.

Lisa D

Definitely my favorite post thus far, and not only for the description of the Metro, which brings the visual flashes of passing faces to life for me. I was surprised by the direction Vero took - golden and glowing - descriptions which I wouldn't immediately associate with the Metro. I like those kinds of surprises; they open up views on the world that I hadn't previously perceived.


What Vero wrote, was absolutely breathtaking. Her last paragaph is exactly how I feel about smelling beautiful perfume. I have no way to describe the "feeling" I get except Euphoric.

I have only been on the metro in Montreal once....but what an amazing feeling it is to be around so much going on in a place as that.

I would love to see Veros idea of the perfume, come to life. WOW.

Darlene Johnson

How you describe creating a perfume as "an endless love story -as lovely as falling into sudden emotion -just by smelling- wordless"
I felt this was so beautifully put, I want to -always- remember that for inspiration.Thank you.

P.S. Is that Bill Murry in the crowd waiting for the train-Lost In Translation? how funny!


I have heard soo much about Vero's perfumes, and have been dying to smell them! I enjoyed the post as it seemed to do exude the honesty,warmth and 'uniqueness' that seem to be characteristic of her perfumes(from what I've heard..:))


A fragrant, flagrant love affair, as told by Vero...
Lovely and unique, like the lady herself-
Sniffing, eternally curious about her surroundings.


Onda sounds very intriguing, but I do feel like I need to grow up yet to be worthy of it:)

And the GOOD VIBRATIONS note - applause to the perfumer! I love the smell of metro - I wonder if it would be a good idea to recreate some of the metro smells from different cities. That would make for an interesting collection!


I just wrote about Onda today in my blog. Amazing perfume which I find more wearable than the spooky Djedi, which always makes me want to cry. Onda, in the contrary, makes me want to live boldly, takes risks, and be myself no matter what other would think. It’s the effect it has on me. I feel it is a strongly potent feminine potion… Vero Kern is a very creative perfumer and I am very proud she is swiss like me! :)


Rubber! That's exactly what has been missing from the previous descriptions for me--something that not only brings in the faces, and the rain, and city, but the Metro itself. There is a big machine in the poem, and it deserves a spot in the notes.


I've been dying to try Onda. Even moreso now.


I can see why Andy Tauer admires this woman so...her Onda is one of the true modern masterpieces, exemplified by the fact that it is so often compared to Djedi. It is, however, very different from that perfume wonder and must be considered in a category of its own. Thank you, Ms. Kern!


I randomly jumped in here to start reading this collection, and can't wait to read the others as well. I felt like I was down in the Metro reading this. It's a warm, human smell. I would love to smell Vero Kern's creation.


Once again.. I feel that there are no words for me to offer but to simply sigh at the beauty of yet another creation.

Janet in California

Vero Kern sounds like such a wonderful woman. And I am looking forward to trying her perfumes. This one sounds beautiful, interesting and wearable!


hi heather,
i love vero kern´s creation, especially kiki.

the description of her perfume sounds stunning: mimosa, jasmine, neroli, in combination with words like naughty & kinky - does it need anything more to tempt me? certainly not!

i wished she would really create it!


I concur with SweetLife: this is my favorite post so far (though I have greatly enjoyed them all). Vero's description of the Paris Metro makes me long to visit it--this underground world unto itself!

Vero, I also love that you thought of Heather in terms of this virtual perfume, as the scent does reflect what I know of her through her blog. She is a rare blossom: fiercely intelligent yet invitingly open, gracious, and accommodating to others.

Also wanted to say to MattS that I love your comment above: "On a Sunday morning in spring, with so many people in the world, anything can happen..." That will be my Easter prayer today.


I am so moved by this post on this beautiful Easter morning. Having never visited the Paris Metro, or any metro for that reason, other than the New York subway, which I feel somehow may lack the beauty and pageantry described here, I am completely transported and transfixed. Vero's post opened up such a variety of images and possibilities I'd never even considered in Pound's poem. The light and promise and optimism Vero evokes are a wonderful contrast to the otherwise dark interpretation I'd previously gleaned from the Pound text. Amazing, and the scent she describes meshes so perfectly with the image she creates. On a Sunday morning in spring , with so many people in the world, anything can happen. With a little luck or a blessing from somewhere or someone, it just might be something transcendent. Thank you so much.


Wow! I think this is my favorite post so far. As Robert Frost so famously said, poetry is what gets lost in translation. Yet, as I read about Vero's struggles with Pound's English, I feel like she has somehow penetrated all the more deeply into the poem for having to rely on her intuition. After all, the poem itself is already a translation/riff on Japanese haiku (so, come to think of it, Vero's brief trip to Tokyo is completely appropriate), and is also about Pound's experience as a traveler/expatriate American in Paris, a little love note to the Metro, as is Vero's perfume.

I feel very much the parochial unilingual American watching Vero write in English and French while thinking in German and perfume. Bravo!


Heather, this is such a beautiful event. Thank you for conceiving it & for making it happen!


I am intrigued; I would want to smell this creation.


Heather -- what a beautiful thing you have done -- a wonderful testament to your own writings that meld words with scent. You certainly are more than worthy of the virtual "H" created for you. Your blog mesmermizes, enchants, and inspires me on many different levels.

Nicole Meredith

Before humans had words, we had scent! And I'll bet we had emotions to go along with the wide spectrum of scent that we experienced . . . perhaps through all our evolution, at base not much has changed.

The comments to this entry are closed.