a poem is like a perfume because…

In this post, Sandy Longhorn writes about writing a poem for an anthology based on perfumes. Reading her post reminded me of the fascinating perfume blog, Now Smell This, and the following extract from the blog’s Perfume FAQ, which I’ve blogged about before:

What are top notes, middle notes and base notes?

Top notes provide the first scent impression of a fragrance once it has been applied to the skin. They are usually lighter, more volatile aromas that evaporate readily. Their scent normally lingers for between five minutes and half an hour.

Middle notes, sometimes referred to as “heart notes”, make up the body of the blend. They may be evident from the start, but will usually take ten minutes to half an hour to fully develop on the skin. These are the notes that classify the fragrance family – green, floral, aldehydic, chypre, oriental, fougère or tobacco/leather.

Base notes are those with the greatest molecular weight. They last the longest, and are important as fixatives – they help slow down the evaporation rates of the lighter notes, giving the fragrance holding power. Common base notes include oakmoss, patchouli, woods, musk and vanilla.

And so, you imagine, the perfumer constructs the perfume, thinking top notes, fleeting notes – enticement, bewitchment; middle notes, middle notes – heart and body; base notes, long notes – grounding and remembrance… And you think that although the poet may not envision the construction of a poem in the same way, still, when a poem really works, we perceive that it has base notes, middle notes, and top notes, too.

7 thoughts on “a poem is like a perfume because…

  1. Sandy Longhorn says:

    Thanks for the link love and for a new insight into poetry. Fascinating.

  2. andrewjshields says:

    Some people don’t like it when a poem has top notes. They think that’s all it has, and they stop thinking about it, because it’s too “simple.”

    Others don’t like it when a poem has anything but top notes. They think the other notes distract from the top notes.

    But as you say, poems should have all of the notes.

    • Hey Andrew – great to hear from you, and glad you concur. So many interesting aspects of perfumery from a poetic point of view! http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16378 -‘The Art of Perfumery And Methods of Obtaining the Odors of Plants’ by George William Septimus Piesse, for example, is a delight.

      • andrewjshields says:

        Have you read Ciaran Carson’s novel “The Pen Friend”? Much about perfumes in it.

      • I have not – the only thing of his I have read is ‘Shamrock Tea.’ Thanks for the mention – I’ll look out for it.

      • andrewjshields says:

        If you liked “Shamrock Tea,” then i can also recommend “The Pen Friend” and “The Star Factory”, as well as his fantastic verse novel “For All We Know.”

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