Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Carpe Diem Ghost Writer #20, Jen's "The Scent of Poetry"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's Wednesday again and so it is time for another Ghost Writer post. This week I have a wonderful Ghost Writer post written by Jen of "Blog It Or Lose It". And I hope you all will appreciate her post. This time she loves to share with you all "The Scent of Poetry" and I think she has a point in her post. We use not all our senses in our haiku and maybe we can become better in writing/composing haiku if we try to bring of our senses in our poems.


The Scent of Poetry
Have you ever walked into an unfamiliar place – but then smelled something which triggered a powerful memory from childhood?  Scientists tell us that this is because your sense of smell is tied to the part of your brain that process emotion as well as the part that processes associative learning.  And, because we come into contact with most new smells in our youth, smells can conjure childhood memories (1).  Our visual and verbal memories peak in our early teens through late 20s, but our peak in scented memories is around five years old (2). That’s not to say that we don’t create scent memories as adults – but our childhood scent memories tend to be more common and more powerful.

Why am I telling you all of this? 

If you’re like me, about 90% of your poetry involves sight and sound description – red tulips in a pattering rain, with no mention of the sweet (sometimes peppery) smell of tulips or the silky feel of tulip petals.  (Don’t worry – I won’t ask you to taste the petals!) Every week I tell myself to involve more senses in my poetry than just sight and sound – and rarely does that happen!  But – it’s still a good thing to try to do – because these added sensory images really draw the reader into your poetry.  For this prompt, I’m hoping we can focus on our sense of smell because of its ability to trigger memories.  Think back to your childhood.  Do you associate any smells with your grandparents’ house or garden?  Can you remember the smell of your first school?  Can you remember any of the smells in your neighborhood or yard?  How would you describe these smells?Or … are there any scents in the grocery store that trigger memories?  When I was pregnant with my son, I had horrible morning sickness (into my fourth month!) and was very sensitive to the powerful, concentrated “yeasty” smell of the grocery store bread section. To this day I don’t like the bread section in the grocery store – it makes me queasy.  Strangely, though, bakeries don’t have the same effect – they have a nice smell, not that hyper-yeasty grocery-store-bread smell. 
Here is my attempt at a scent-oriented haiku:

spring plowing done –   /
the scent of oil and hot dust /
in grandpa’s workshop //

If no scent memories come to mind, perhaps you could consider some of your favorite nature scents.  Here is a tanka I wrote to accompany a painting by Vincent Van Gogh:

where Vincent paints /
warm in the afternoon sun /
cypress and lemon – /

his gloves carry the scent /
long into the evening //

Here are some more scent ideas for you:
- tart apples being cooked into pies;
- hot dust in the attic during hide-and-seek;
- crayons and floor polish on the first day of school;
- cold honeydew at a housewarming party;
- old-fashioned pink roses at the front gate;
- decaying leaves and pine needles in the forest;
- hot oil and machinery (grandfather’s workshop);
- chlorine at the municipal pool;
- the overgrown, past-its-prime smell of early September;
- cut grass, pond water, wet soil, salt water, March mud, the first drops of rain ….

Good luck!

Information Sources: 

1) Dowdey, Sarah.  "How Smell Works"  29 October 2007.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/perception/smell.htm>  21 July 2014.

2)  Fields, Helen.  “Fragrant Flashbacks: Smells Rouse Early Memories” April 2012.  Association for Psychological Science. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2012/april-12/fragrant-flashbacks.html>  21 July 2014.

Further Reading:

4) Roses and their Fragrance -- http://perrysperennials.info/articles/rosefrag.html

Well ... I hope you did like this Ghost Writer post by Jen and of course I hope she has given help to us all to use more senses, in this case 'smell'. Have fun, be inspired and share your haiku based on this post with us all.
This post is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until August 8th at noon (CET). I will try to post our next episode, forest, later on.


  1. beautiful Jen i really enjoyed this post!! my english teacher taught me to include scents in essays and poetry!! im pretty sure i can come up with something!!

    1. Your scented haiku are wonderful -- so vivid!
      I'm so glad you liked the prompt --

  2. Good angle/idea and great prompts there Jen. Somehow I can't imagine Chèvrefeuille's Carpe Diem without you also!

    1. Thank you so much Hamish -- this means a lot -- I am touched. :)
      I'm glad you liked the prompt, too --
      All the best --

  3. Scents are lovely to bring into poetry.. I do it all to seldom.. I agree that we tend to make it all to visual .. lovely post Jen

    1. Glad you liked the prompt, Björn -- your responses were absolutely wonderful! :D

  4. Thanks for letting me be a Ghost Writer, Chèvrefeuille! This was a lot of fun. :) And everybody's responses have been wonderful!

    I couldn't get the link for JazzBumpa to work -- here he is: http://retirementpastels.blogspot.com/2014/08/carpe-diem-ghost-writer-20-jens-scent.html

    All the best to you -- and again, thanks!

  5. very interesting post.

  6. Love the idea ... with all the lovely smells (and not so lovely smells) we should try to integrate them more. A good one Jen ... and a great post!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it -- I really enjoyed your haiku -- such a wealth of scent memories!

  7. Very nice post. I went to a writing workshop once that was all about scented cotton balls and the memories they raised.

    1. Thanks!

      Scented cotton balls --- that would be an interesting workshop -- a great exercise whether you're an adult or a kid. It would be interesting to see our local schools try it. Hmmmmm....

  8. Wonderful prompt!! Love it!

    1. Thanks Brenda - I really loved your haiku! :)

  9. sorry Jen - I missed the link up. The week got away from me. Being convinced Friday was Thursday didn't help :) http://artifactsandfictions.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/wintering/