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Sniffing out some verse
PERFUME and poetry came together in perfect harmony at an unusual event in Oxford.
The Penning Perfumes evening was held at Jericho’s Albion Beatnik Bookstore, where poems inspired by scents were read, and perfumes inspired by verse were enjoyed.
The night was the brainchild of London-based perfume expert Lizzie Ostrom, aka “Odette Toilette”, and Oxford-based poet Claire Trévien.
Miss Trévien, 27, said: “I got in touch with Odette because I saw that she was putting on these really interesting events in London, and I thought it would be great to bring one to Oxford.
“I think the sense of smell is a very powerful tool at people’s disposal, and as a poet I don’t think I’ve always used it as much as I should have.
“Perfume and poetry are both things which are quite niche and quite obscure, so by bringing them together, we hope we can make them more accessible.”
Ahead of the event at the Walton Street shop, several poets were sent vials of scent.
They were not given any information about the perfumes they had been sent, but were asked to write a poem inspired by them.
Among the poets reading at Thursday night’s event was Lucy Ayrton, 26, from West Oxford, who wrote an untitled piece about her mother, inspired by a Grossmith perfume called Hasu-No-Hana.
She said: “I’ve been writing poetry for a long time and this seemed like a really interesting and different thing to do.
“I’m always looking for prompts for my work, so the idea of being given one in the form of a scent seemed really great.
“And a perfumer is going to be making a perfume inspired by one of my poems, so it’s going to be like having my own perfume line.”
Miss Ostrom said she ran various events to promote perfume and inform people about it.
She said: “I know that lots of people get intimidated by fragrance, they think it’s a bit posh and luxurious, but actually there are lots of fun ways to play around with perfume.”
Another Oxford-based poet James Webster, 27, read a poem entitled Flat-pack Lover, which was also inspired by the scent Hasu-No-Hana.
He told the audience he had written the poem almost a year ago, but he still got the same feeling from the smell of the perfume.
He said: “I’m still getting the same woody fragrance that I got from the first time.
“Other people that I sprayed it on said that it smelled of different things, and it was really interesting how all the different experiences of it came together in the poem.”