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 smelling – wordless.
15. March 2008
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. 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.
- Photo of Vero Kern courtesy of the artist and used with permission.
- Film Still of Lost in Translation, Universal Studios, 2003
- Photo of Mimosa flowers by Legambiente Arcipelago, Toscana Italia
- Photo of Metro (left) by Lars Krüger via fotocomunity.de
- Photo of Metro (right) by slidingpast.com
- Ezra Pound quotation from Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916. Electronic text via Modern American Poetry
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.