Lisa Fong: Perfume in a Poem
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: Perfume in a Poem

Yosh Han: Perfume in a Poem

YoshIn a Station of the Metro

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


I'm walking through Grand Central NY, I hear lots of voices speaking in many languages. I have a moment of  déjà vu, and feel that I am in Amsterdam. Then as I walk by the flower kiosk, it reminds me of walking through the forest in southern Holland near Belgium.

The trees are enormous. It is crisp out and my hands and ears are freezing but I continue to walk. The birds are singing to me and I take a moment to enjoy the morning light. I can hear their feet shuffling the dead leaves. I see tiny heads of ivory and butter crocuses sprouting through the debris.

I stop.


And breathe in the aura of the morning. It is mostly winter conifers. When I look, I see that the forest is teeming with new beginnings. I see my breath fog and as I quiet myself, I inhale the earth, the deep smell of wet forest. It takes me a moment to notice the harbinger of spring in the
air; do I imagine the narcissus, bearded irises, and the crabapples? I want to take a picture, but I don't have a camera. So I make a memory of this moment.

I am at my mixing table with oak moss, silver fir. Honey, narcissus, linden blossom and violet. I want to add a tiny bit of mushroom and cedarwood. I re-create the flower shadows that linger in my mind.

A tall man rushing to catch the train bumps me, sliding me into the tornado of commuters. I reach into my pocket and find my bottle of Apparition. I enjoy the unfurling of delicate petals.

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Editor's Note:

My introduction to the art of Yosh Han's perfume came about three years ago while I was searching for a scent that would be reminiscent of stargazer lilies - my favorite flowers at the time.  Google brought me to Lucky Scent, which recommended Yosh's Stargazer 7.71, described there as "not sweet or heady,  Stargazer is clean,  soothing and austerely beautiful... a straight-up lily with a sharp infusion of ginger."  I was sold on the idea, but just to be safe, I ordered the Yosh Sweet Suite of six precious handmade oil-based perfume samples.  When it arrived, I went through all six vials methodically and though I enjoyed Stargazer as I knew I would, it was her darker, more dramatic sister Omniscent 0.96 who captured my heart.

I will be the first to say that I do not consider myself a perfume critic or reviewer: my nose is still not educated enough to pick out all the marvelous notes that make up a fragrance, but Omniscent took hold of my imagination and refused to be ignored.  It was as though I had arranged to meet Stargazer for a rendezvous and Omniscent kidnapped me on the street in front of the hotel.  Its official notes include: gardenia, Egyptian tuberose, fig, lilac, violet, kush, Tunisian opium, vanilla, sandalwood, basil, clove, geranium, pink grapefruit, and pink pepper.  On me, this scent is a marvelous blend of creamy and spicy elements, never veering too far in any direction.  And because it is an oil-based scent, it lasts a very long time and simply radiates warmth and sensuality. 

Yosh_han Besides the fact that I adore Omniscent, one of the reasons I approached Yosh (whose first name means "fragrant" in Chinese) for this project is her intriguing philosophy of "trans-aromation" to describe the transformative qualities of fragrance, through which one can "discover a new sense of self" by adding to one's own aromascape, or inner landscape of scent.  On her beautifully designed and very interesting website, Yosh explains this concept and answers a range of questions such as what inspires her, why her fragrance names contain numbers, which fragrance is her favorite, and how she became a perfumer.

I also deeply admire the work she does in creating perfumes based on the communicative arts.  She collaborated with author JT Leroy in developing a custom perfume for the book and film The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.  She has also worked with author William T. Vollman on a scent called Carnage, which was "inspired by his seven-volume treatise on violence." (SFgate.com)  And her range is certainly not limited to literary collaborations: among many other collaborative projects, she has recently teamed up with San-Francisco confectioner Temper Chocolates to create a line of exclusive perfumes centered on luscious olfactory interpretations of the cocoa note.    

Another favorite from the Sweet Suite turned out to be U4EAHH! 2.43, which is rightly described blissful.  Combining the pure, clean notes of pear, aloe vera, and cucumber with vibrant pomegranate and elegant waterlily, Yosh offers U4EAHH! as an experience of simple olfactory joy.  Our extraordinary giveaway on March 31 will include a sample of Yosh's U4EAHH! straight from Lucky Scent, just in time for the jubilation of spring. 

For those planning to attend the Sniffapalooza Spring Fling events in New York City this April, Yosh will be an honored guest at Takashimaya on Saturday, April 12, which is where I hope to meet her in person for the first time.  Additional upcoming events and more information about both the perfumer and her art are listed on YOSH olfactory sense. Metro Perfume Giveaway

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Credits:

Photos of Yosh were provided by the perfumer and are 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.

Posts prior to 2015 first appeared on my previous website, memory & desire (memoryanddesire.net).

Comments

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DW Rosengard

I agree with the poem image structure being seemingly incorporated into the fragrance structure. While I think, in terms of scent, Mandy's description is still probably closest in description to what I'd imagined myself, this is a close second. I love the unfurling dedication to what the physical experience of the poem seems to describe. I this project continues to be so creatively inspiring!

sweetlife

I see Pound's sentence in the structure of Yosh's narrative -- the subway station, the voices, then the flowers. It's an interesting take on interpretation -- a riff rather than a straightforward analysis--that I enjoy and that seem particularly appropriate as an act of translation from one place to another, and from one medium to another.

I hope Yosh will come chime in on this discussion!

Merline

well, very nice, but where is Pound's sentence ? It seems that we are "hors sujet".

I will express my gratitude to Mandy Aftel to open the way to a revival of natural perfumery and share her experience with all of us with her wonderful "Essence and Alchemy", mon livre de chevet !
Now Perfumery will never be "the lost paradise of the perfumes of the past and of the spirit".

Suzanne

Oak moss is one of the perfume notes that sprang to my mind, too, when I first read this poem. All of the notes in Yosh's proposed perfume sound exquisite, like the first sharp bite of Spring. And her description of walking in the woods in southern Holland makes me want to go outside, into my own woods.

Thank you, Yosh and Heather. What a perfect way to start off the first day of Spring!

MattS

Oh, this sounds heavenly, perfect in fact for today, a typically confused spring day, in terms of weather. The oakmoss, fir, and mushroom with beautiful violet, a favorite note of mine, peaking through. How lovely! Thank you Yosh, and thank you Heather!

Monica

Is Yosh Han considered a natural perfumer? I have just started my own search into natural perfumery and it has really opened my eyes to read about these creations!

HeatherMaville

What an amazing woman! I have to admit that, like Yosh Han, my mind also went straight to the earthy and fungal after reading the poem. In this vein I thought Mandy Aftel was an inspired choice, as her Cepes and Tuberose is so very mushroom-y yet luminous! Perfect for a subterranean encounter!

Yosh Han's creation sounds to be a balanced marriage of the last gasp of winter with the barely-visible traces of spring. Apparitions may even supplant Stargazer as my personal Yosh fav!

Wonderful addition to this brilliant project! I can't wait for the rest of the week...

Julie

What a true artist! Yosh looks beautiful inside and out. I can't wait to try the Sweet Suite.

Thanks again for doing this project, Heather.

Lavanya

I loved the 'flower shadows' bit too..:)

I am really enjoying this!

Nicole Meredith

i love the idea of recreating "flower shadows" that linger in one's mind. i think that's what all types of artists do, sometimes obsessively! though i personally consider it a healthy obsession.

lovely to read your work.

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