Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Poetry & Perfume IV – 'A Marriage' by RS Thomas & 'Cuir de Nacre' by Parfums Ann Gerard
by R S Thomas
under a shower
Fifty years passed,
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
`Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
the last dance, and she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.
For my evening of poetry & perfume I chose seven poems and complimented them with seven fragrances. However in two cases I had fragrances I knew I wanted to use and it was a case of searching for the right words to do them justice.
Pierre Guillaume’s snowy desolate skin-sugared Poudre de Riz (from his Huitième Art line) was one, the other was Cuir de Nacre, created for Ann Gerard the Parisian jeweller by Bertrand Duchaufour. I have already quite posted quite recently on this exquisite scent and so some of you will already know of my heartfelt passion for this remarkable fragrance; a poignant and subliminal marriage of haunting iris and the softest and most white of leathers.
Inspired by the ghostly accretions of nacreous lustre, Cuir de Nacre was originally created exclusively for Ann’s boutique clientele and then recently expanded into a triptych of scents with Ciel d’Opale and Perle de Mousse which recently picked up an award from Olfactorama in the ‘Virtuosité’ category for its intricate and glowing work with muguet-blanc (lily of the valley). I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined anyone could have re-invented the muguet, but this obsessive ball of cashmere green, nestling on a bed of tactile almost moist alien curls of moss is very startling and made me radically rethink my opinion of a floral note I have admired, but not particularly appreciated.
Iris & leather. One of the most perfect olfactory arrangements. An affinity, a craving almost for skin, heat and sensuality. Yet on paper they seem like opposites- chilled mournful iris, pulled from the ground and hung for months for the root/bulb to mature like powdered game. And leather, notes that echo hide and flesh, hot, warm, liquid and animalic. But in fragrance, it becomes a question of texture, the imagining of our anointed skin. Good iris fragrances smell like the touch of leather rubbed softly between fingertips. And leather is skin, close to us, we often yearn for it, for sex, for comfort, to remind ourselves we are alive. The two notes together bind and coat, cocoon and set us on fire.
The leather accord in Cuir de Nacre smells pearlescent, reflective of light, catching tones of grey, silver and mauve. Like the edges of beautiful bruises. Bedded down in white musks, sandalwood and an icy blast of styrax, momentarily, the composition resembles a watercolor sky, bleeding out across bone white paper. Then the leather and iris spread like a lighter flame eased gently under the page and assert themselves, softly, but with enough pyrexial passion as to cause the skin to shudder a whispered prayer of thanks.
Wearing the scent one snowy day in the New Year, I was sitting at the window looking out at ashen Scottish skies. I could smell the creamy sensuality of the leather and the sadness of the iris. I knew suddenly which poem I wanted: ‘A Marriage’ by R.S. Thomas, addressed to his dead wife and one of the most moving evocations of love, life together and parting.
Everything is about lightness, the light of release, the delicacy of years in love passing to the point of goodbye. It is a painful poem on many levels - remaining behind as a loved one moves on - the simple celebration of grace is almost unbearable. So many of us search for love, never really understanding the true simplicity of true devotion. The poem captures the transient and shimmering beauty of lives lived and loved. I cannot read it without feeling tears threaten my day. As a olfactory expression of the perfumer’s art, Cuir de Nacre is no heavier than a feather, a fragrance of degrees, of lightness echoing the slow accretion of exquisite layers that the oyster builds to showcase its pearl. The skill in great perfumery as in great poetry is often creating the simplest of emotions using the neatest and most emotive ingredients, be they Ambrette seed, lexicography, leather accords, iris or metaphorical echoes.
Thomas pinpoints a sense I associate in perfumery with magic and suspension of time. That rare stumbling upon a scent that transports and moves you. When I wear Cuir de Nacre, it is like living and breathing very carefully within the delicate shifting strata of effects and emotions that Bertrand Duchaufour has woven into this ethereal, shimmering jewel. Try reading this poem, inhale the iris, feel the leather between your fingertips, breathe the aerial aldehydes, sense the room is not quite as empty as your thought…and try not to weep.
For more information on Ann Gerard Bijoux et Parfums, please follow the link below