I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Poetry & Perfume VIII - 'Snow Melting' by Gjertrude Schnackenberg & 'Poudre de Riz' by Huitième Art

Snow Melting

By Gjertrude Schnackenberg

Snow melting when I left you, and I took
This fragile bone we'd found in melting snow
Before I left, exposed beside a brook
Where raccoons washed their hands. And this, I know,

Is that raccoon we'd watched for every day.
Though at the time her wild human hand
Had gestured inexplicably, I say
Her meaning now is more than I can stand.

We've reasons, we have reasons, so we say,
For giving love, and for withholding it.
I who would love must marvel at the way
I know aloneness when I'm holding it,

Know near and far as words for live and die,
Know distance, as I'm trying to draw near,
Growing immense, and know, but don't know why,
Things seen up close enlarge, then disappear.

Tonight this small room seems too huge to cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.
Here, left with this alone, and at a loss
I hold an alien and vacant face

Which shrinks away, and yet is magnified—
More so than I seem able to explain.
Tonight the giant galaxies outside
Are tiny, tiny on my windowpane.

This was another case of fragrance first.  Pierre Guillaume is a prolific and mercurial man, beautiful too. Vain, prodigiously talented and totally secure in his awareness of himself as someone how can create singularly unique aromas.

His main line is the rightly lauded Parfumerie Générale, a collection of truly inspiring and individual scents that have garnered tremendous critical praise and a loyal following. They have clarity and intent, each fragrance created using the best possible raw materials and glorious aromachemistry. Pierre likes to play too, with our senses and expectations. There are often notes that shock and surprise in each creation. He likes to find something that will bring the unknown to the mix. Like a host inviting a wildcard guest, someone edgy and unpredictable; however the canny host knows the mix of guests will be enriched by the addition and the result will be an unforgettable evening. His work is the marriage of modernist olfactory architecture wrapped around the beautiful and innovative naturals he can source. I can only really describe it as the sensation of being in a glass tower of scent, thousands of feet off the ground, knowing that only a pane of glass is between you and the vertiginous exterior. But somehow, the fragrances contain safety, cocooning.  The juxtaposition of cold glass, steel and the sensualities of the natural world is how I view Pierre’s unique world.

I wear his Cuir Venenum, all raspberry beer, hops and dirty leather -which emanates from a compulsive burnt Bakelite smell. And Felanilla, a feline vanilla, with a deeply sexy flambéed banana/rum facet that smells delicious as it settles down into the flesh. I am currently re-visiting one of my all-time favourites Musc Maori, one of the first I ever bought in fact and one of the most delectable chocolate gourmands of all time. Milk chocolate, silky smooth, Galaxy indulgence. You feel dipped and cleansed, quite a feat.  The beauty is in the use of Cumaru wood and the very subtle use of coffee and green notes to float the sweetness.

There is now a clever and deceptively simple diffusion line called Huitième Art, very different in style, exploring Pierre’s fascination with oddity and effect. They are minimal in tone, three to four impressions, in very distinctive white porcelain bottles shaped like primitive smooth ceramic owls. I wasn’t sure at first, but Pierre’s technique of layering the effects over one other like gauze is very seductive and the more I sampled them, the more I loved them. I liked most of them actually, but Poudre de Riz was my favourite. Powder. How could it not be? But it is so much more than that. It is a white scent, snow, cold air, exposed skin, the hairs on the body rising as you walk into a haunted room. Powder, chalk, dust… smashed glass, crystalline tears, icing sugar. These are my things. I get them. I look for them in scent. Like roses, plastic and leather, I love the scent of powder, be it the aftermath of calamity, concrete and dust or the vintage violet-tinted fallout of setting powder and Johnson’s baby stuff.

Poudre de Riz is an aloof gourmand. Sweet and moreish but cold and distant at the same time. Vanilla, monoï and tiare flower lay down amid coconut milk, maple sap, caramel, sandalwood, iris, cedar, tonka bean, tolu balsam, benzoin and damask rose. The effect is skin, snow, loneliness. For me it is a very private scent, one I will only wear alone. It draws in the walls and dims the lights. So I had my scent, now I needed my poem. In my memory I recalled a poem about that mentioned snow and bones and raccoons washing their tiny hands in meltwater. I remembered the lines:

Tonight this small room seems too huge too cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.

Snow Melting is a bizarre and moving poem by Gjertrud Schnackenberg, a glittering and aesthetically complex American poet, born in 1953. 

The poem explores distance and loss, the cracks that often loom between us. We are dwarfed by nature and weight of simply living. It is the details that will hobble us and bring us down. The poem opens and closes like lungs, breathing softly. There is expansion. The small details, a bone found in melting snow, a shared memory of a raccoon by a brook tied to departure as the snows leave. A treatise on the pain and vagaries of partaking and donating love. Then the telescoping to a room -

Tonight this small room seems too huge to cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.
Here, left with this alone, and at a loss
I hold an alien and vacant face

These lines are very hard to say out loud, they seem to demand an inner silence, a prayer inside, behind the eyes. Life seemingly immense and insurmountable with loss and grief, everything distorted by vacancy of love. Snow at the beginning, galaxies at the end, tiny, tiny on my windowpane. I would need a coating of something. A barrier. We all crave comfort from time to time, looking for it in many places, food, love, booze, drugs, sleep and warmth. Lots of clients ask me for comforting scents, cocooning fragrance, soft and skin-close. More often than not, vanillic in character, powered with a lick of orange blossom. There is immense safety in Poudre de Riz, Pierre Guillaume’s clever manipulation of milkiness and sweetness creating a sense of detachment and whiteness, like an ashen cell, where the body can heal.

There is aloneness in Poudre de Riz, a drifting, like snow nuzzling glass. But as it drops into the skin, it seems to raise memories, phantoms; loves lost. So many gourmand fragrances neglect to stir the mind, but Poudre de Riz moves with the innate and studied grace of a silent Oiran to seduce the senses and wrap the wearer in crepuscular drifts of memory. 

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