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The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfumes

Co-organizer Claire Trévien has written a review of a new American anthology inspired by perfumes.

'My interest in reviewing this anthology was not totally unbiased, so I will declare myself now as one of the co-organizers of Penning Perfumes, a UK-based creative collaboration between perfumers and poets, which led to a series of live events and two micro-anthologies in 2012-2013. I was really keen to read The Book of Scented Things, not only to see how American responses might compare to our (mostly) British ones, but also to see whether we chose the same perfumes! My first instinct then was to head straight to the Matchmaking Notes at the back, where the perfumes behind the poems nestle with the contributor biographies. There were only two crossovers: Narcisse Noir from Caron and Jeux de peau from Serge Lutens, both fascinating for me to compare with the poems generated in Penning Perfumes, not least as we gave Lutens to three different poets without their knowledge. Only 2 out of 100 might seem like a small number, but it’s easily explained by the scale of the endeavour, which makes sticking to certain houses undoubtedly more practical; the names Tom Ford, Atelier Cologne, Providence Perfume Co., Jo Malone and Bond No.9 echoed throughout the profiles.

This is to say that there is no need to convince me on the logic of pairing perfume and poetry, but for anyone in doubt, both the introduction by Dubrow, and the preface by Alyssa Harad tease out the benefits of pairing two art forms some might qualify as niche or irrelevant. As Dubrow writes, ‘perfume, like literature, can seem formulaic when summarized’, and yet both have the power to haunt us. ‘The intangibility of scent, its ghostliness, is part of its power’, writes Harad, something one could attribute to those elusive poems that grab you by the guts for no deconstructable reason. I’ve cherished every instance when an audience member at a Penning Perfumes event would confess that they neither liked nor understood poetry or perfume but that combining the two changed that. Even without scents to accompany The Book of Scented Things, the knowledge of the inspiration behind the texts provides an accessible entry point into these worlds.’

To read the full review, click here.

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Ledbury Poetry Festival

Just a quick note to let you know that Penning Perfumes will be making an appearance at Ledbury Poetry Festival with readings from John Clegg, Angela France, Emily Hasler, Lesley Ingram, and Claire Trévien on Thursday 10th July at 8pm (£8)!

As usual there will be a mix of new poems inspired by perfumes and new perfumes inspired by poems!

This is probably our last event, let’s make it a good one!

In the meantime, if you are starved of scented poetry, a brand new anthology has sprung up across the pond with 100 poems inspired by scent: check it out!

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versekraken:

Merry Christmas from co-editor Claire Trévien, with a poem inspired by 4160Tuesday’s perfume Urura’s Tokyo Café

versekraken:

Merry Christmas from co-editor Claire Trévien, with a poem inspired by 4160Tuesday’s perfume Urura’s Tokyo Café

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Penning Perfumes Christmas Special

Penning Perfumes is back for a special Christmas event.

We’re gathering at Angela Flanders’ perfumery tucked down Artillery Passage in Spitalfields, to hear poets read brand new pieces inspired by Wintery fragrances and to find how they turned a scent into words. None of the poets knew the name of the perfumes while they wrote them, and this is the first time their poems have been heard…

A glass of wine and nibbles are included in the ticket price - come any time from 6.30pm if you fancy a bit of Christmas Shopping at Angela’s first - proceedings begin at 7pm.

Featuring poets Charlotte Newman, Amy Key, John Clegg and Kayo Chingonyi.

Tickets are limited and can be purchased here.

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Poems paired with perfumes

Over on Notes from the Gelfite Review blog, Jehanne Dubrow pairs poems with perfumes. As a taster here is Soivohle’s perfume ‘Honeysuckle bird’ paired with an Andrew Hudgins poem.

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Penning Perfumes Volume 2 is now available to download for free as an ebook. You can also purchase a print version here.

This anthology presents the work of twelve poets from Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, and Bristol, as well as the quickfire haiku of audiences from these four cities. 

Featuring poems by Lucy Ayrton, David Briggs, Holly Corfield-Carr, Anna Freeman, Dan Holloway, Andrew Mcmillan, Kim Moore, Anna Percy, Bohdan Piasecki, Jacqui Rowe, Camellia Stafford, and Eloise Stonborough. Bonus material includes three new poems by John Clegg, Lindsey Holland, and Dan Simpson.

Penning Perfumes Volume 2 is now available to download for free as an ebook. You can also purchase a print version here.

This anthology presents the work of twelve poets from Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, and Bristol, as well as the quickfire haiku of audiences from these four cities.

Featuring poems by Lucy Ayrton, David Briggs, Holly Corfield-Carr, Anna Freeman, Dan Holloway, Andrew Mcmillan, Kim Moore, Anna Percy, Bohdan Piasecki, Jacqui Rowe, Camellia Stafford, and Eloise Stonborough. Bonus material includes three new poems by John Clegg, Lindsey Holland, and Dan Simpson.

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Penning Perfumes shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards

The Saboteur Awards shortlist is now out, with the top five nominations in twelve categories. We are chuffed to be included in it!
If you enjoyed our work and have a spare minute, do vote for us in the ‘Best one-off’ category!

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Penning Perfumes Bristol

Perfumes plus poetry plus cocktails at the taxidermied-to-the-hilt Milk Thistle bar made for a fabulous end to the Penning Perfumes tour in Bristol.

Photos by Ruby Walker Photography!

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Tori Truslow read her poem inspired by Narcisse Noir.

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One of our original poets, Amy Key, was back for her final Penning Perfumes performance - for now…

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Anna Freeman, our first Bristolian poet.

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Followed by Holly Corfield Carr.

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And David Briggs.

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These events are starting to look quite cultish….

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Wish we could remember which perfume she was smelling!

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Elizabeth Moores of Papillon Perfumery sharing her barnyardy sex perfume with David Briggs - inspired by his poem.

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The detritus of sniffing sticks and cocktail glasses.

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Elizabeth Moores on Perfume Muses

Elizabeth Moores is the perfumer behind Papillon Perfumery, a new British line of artisan fragrances launching this year. Elizabeth will be at the Penning Perfumes event at Milk Thistle bar in Bristol tomorrow evening, unveiling an intriguing new fragrance she’s created from a poem.

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We asked Elizabeth three questions ahead of the big reveal.

Is poetry something you’ve used before when developing fragrances?

Although I have never worked directly from poetry, a lot of my perfumes are greatly influenced by periods of history, romantic and literary concepts, nature and artwork; much like painting or a piece of poetry it is the fragments which are extracted from these muses that combine and make something entirely new.
Working from a poem significantly illuminated these similarities and allowed me to connect with the poetic semblance and create an olfactory representation of the poem.

Without giving too much away before the night, how did you find the experience of creating a new perfume off the back of a poem?

Like all the arts, perfumery is greatly influenced by a variety of sensory elements, not just smell.

When creating a perfume, I think of colours, textures and places. I imagine the people who may wear the fragrance, and hope that the perfume will help them conjure their own unique and personal allusions. The whole experience of creating a perfume based around a poem has been very interesting for me.

Which commercially available perfume would you love to see interpreted into a poem?

Shalimar by Guerlain [good choice Liz].

You can meet Elizabeth and sample her new mystery perfume at Penning Perfumes on Wednesday 27th February. Tickets are available here.

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Three questions for Holly Corfield-Carr

Holly Corfield Carr is a Bristol-based poet, writer and artist. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and is currently working as Spike Island Writer-in-Residence, supported by Arts Council England. Holly’s work is published in magazines including Ambit and Magma and has been commissioned for performance, exhibitions and public artworks such as Missorts, an immersive soundwork produced by Situations. You can follow Holly here She will be reading at the Bristol Penning Perfumes event on 27th February..

image1) How would you describe your ‘normal’ poetry style?

I am not sure how to answer this so I’m going with ‘elliptical’. Not concise and not especially evasive, but perhaps egg-shaped? Weighted slightly off centre, tapering to a point that rounds off before it is fully achieved. Ha! Having said this, I used to work as an egg-collector on a farm and I once found a soft-shelled egg, laid before the shell had fully calcified. Surface tension had pulled it into a wrinkled sphere, gnarled with tough little calcium deposits. It was fascinating. That’s how I hope to write – still fluid, still unset.

2) Did the scent we give you challenge or suit your usual writing process?

I often work in collaboration so I thought this would be a challenge but one that would suit my practice well. It turns out my nose has an absolutely terrible memory and the scent I received recalled something I couldn’t name. It might have been easier if I could speak in a perfumer’s idiom and trace out notes and resins and dry tones. But all I could do was sniff and sniff until I unearthed something, and even then I wasn’t quite sure what I’d found. Happily, this strangeness made the poem.

3) What’s your favourite smell?

Lavender. Garlic. Wood smoke.