Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Mystery of Musk

As promised, the Natural Perfumers Guild musk-fest will commence tomorrow, July 1. Unexpected joys and sorrows are eating up my time, so I'm going to have to wait until the weekend to post reviews. Check back Saturday for my thoughts on the scents, and for details on the bottle giveaway. Meanwhile, visit Anya's blog for a full list of links to the other participants.

Diomedes devoured by his horses, Gustave Moreau, 1866

(What, you may ask, do the Mares of Diomedes have to do with the Mystery of Musk? Not a damn thing, I just like the painting, in all its grisly sensuality. Enjoy.)

Wrens in the bramble...

 Turn Outward.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Here I am drumming up perfume"

This is the key to it.
This is the key to everything.

I am worse than the gamekeeper's children
picking for dust and bread.
Here I am drumming up perfume.

From "The Breast" by Anne Sexton

Woman with a Black Hat, Félix Vallotton (1865-1925)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Joy is a trick in the air"

Joy is a trick in the air; pleasure is merely contemptible, the dangled
Carrot the ass follows to market or precipice;
But limitary pain--the rock under the tower and the hewn coping
That takes thunder at the head of the turret--
Terrible and real. Therefore a mindless dervish carving himself
With knives will seem to have conquered the world.

From "Birth-Dues" by Robinson Jeffers.

The Flagellants, Pieter van Laer, c.1635

Friday, June 25, 2010

"That unfakable young surface"

Obedient daily dress,
You cannot always keep
That unfakable young surface.

From "Skin" by Philip Larkin

Kneeling model, John Singer Sargent, c.1890

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Sentence Perfume Review: Histoire d'Amour, Parfums Aubusson

Sadie Thompson channeling her inner Galadriel.

Notes from Fragrantica: Mandarin orange, osmanthus, basil, bergamot, orange blossom, galbanum, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, narcissus, patchouli, musk and oakmoss

La Nymphe de Foret, Guillaume Seignac (1870-1924)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"I was a dweller once in paradise"

I was zipping down a narrow country road this afternoon, rounded a blind curve and before me was a peacock, ambling along as if the last thing he expected was somebody driving a car into his domain. He was certainly the last thing I expected. It's always a little shocking to see something so beautiful when you're not braced for it. The sun was fierce today, so his feathers glowed as if lit from within.

I was a dweller once in paradise;
There the insinuating snake's advice
Deceived me--I became his friend, disgrace
Was swift and I was banished from that place.
My dearest hope is that some blessèd day
A guide will come to indicate the way
Back to my paradise.

From "The peacock's excuse and the hoopoe's answer" in The Conference of the Birds

A Peacock in a Classical Landscape with Lilies and Roses, Gyula Juluis De Benczur (1844-1920)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Come, before the summer passes..."

‘Come, before the summer passes 
Let us seek the mountain land:'
So they called me, happy playmates,
And we left the dawn-lit strand:
Riding on till later sunbeams slanted
On dark hills and downward-plunging streams,
And the solemn forest softly chanted
Old, old dreams.

From "Travel Song" by Anne Glenny Wilson

Wishing a joyful Litha and sunny Summer Solstice to the N. Hemisphere contingent. (To the other half of the planet I wish a midwinter as beautiful as our midsummer. With Southern friends in mind, I chose the words of an Australian poet, Anne Glenny Wilson.)

This happy moment seems like a good time to thank all the friends who regularly stop by the blog to say hi or just have a look. It's nice to know you are out there, and I hope the posts give you pleasure.

An Allegory of the Triumph of Midsummer, Antoine Caron (1521-1599). There's a lot going on in this painting. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"I swim in it, as in a sea"

To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment—what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it, as in a sea.

From "I Sing the Body Electric" by Walt Whitman

The Disembarkation at Marseilles (detail), Peter Paul Rubens, 1622-25

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"The sun is an indistinct moon."

The sun is an indistinct moon. Frail sticks
of grass poke her ankles,
and a wet froth of spiders touches her legs
like wet fingers. The musk and smell
of air are as hot as the savory
terrible exhales from a tired horse.

From "All Summer Long" by Carol Frost. The complete poem is here.

A Late Afternoon in Summer, Thomas Moran, 1909.

*Speaking of musk, the samples have begun to arrive for the Natural Perfumers Guild musk event. It's like Christmas in June around here. And speaking of perfume, don't forget to comment or email me if you want in the draw for a sample of Oro. You have until Friday night to enter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"so far as was in his power"

...St Francis added these words: “Listen my brethren: the wolf who is here before you has promised and pledged his faith that he consents to make peace with you all, and no more to offend you in aught, and you must promise to give him each day his necessary food; to which, if you consent, I promise in his name that he will most faithfully observe the compact.” Then all the people promised with one voice to feed the wolf to the end of his days; and St Francis, addressing the latter, said again: “And thou, brother wolf, dost thou promise to keep the compact, and never again to offend either man or beast, or any other creature?” And the wolf knelt down, bowing his head, and, by the motions of his tail and of his ears, endeavoured to show that he was willing, so far as was in his power, to hold to the compact.

From Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, XXI

The Wolf of Gubbio, Luc-Olivier Merson, 1877 (Click on the image to enlarge it)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"The way that lovers use is this"

The way that lovers use is this;
They bow, catch hands, with never a word,
And their lips meet, and they do kiss,
—So I have heard.

They queerly find some healing so,
And strange attainment in the touch;
There is a secret lovers know,
—I have read as much.

And theirs no longer joy nor smart,
Changing or ending, night or day;
But mouth to mouth, and heart on heart,
—So lovers say.

"The Way That Lovers Use" by Rupert Brooke

Three nudes and a reclining man, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1934

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tea, terrorists, etc.

It's been a while since I posted a link to Chapter 16 but I hope all you bookish types are checking out the site regularly. I just did a Q&A with Mark Stephen Meadows, an American artist and wanderer who traveled to Sri Lanka in 2003, hoping to spend some quality time with Tamil rebels. His account of the journey, Tea Time with Terrorists, is funny and insightful, and he had lots of interesting tidbits to offer in our interview, including his three rules of travel:

1) Get Lost.
2) Talk to Strangers.
3) Keep Your Shit Together.

Seems like sound advice to me. Read the interview here. You can sample some of Mark's writing at his website.

A Mad Tea Party, Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

One Sentence Perfume Review: Oro, Roberto Cavalli

A sweet, soft thing, all decked out in dowager finery.

Notes from Fragrantica: Magnolia, Coriander, Iris, Pepper, Apple, Bergamot, Apricot, Patchouli, Cinnamon, Freesia, Cedar, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk, Vanilla, Guaiac wood.

The Mirror, Frank Bernard Dicksee, 1896

*Curious persons should leave a comment or email me to enter the draw for a decant of Oro. Draw's open until Friday, 6/18

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Henry's always in a very bad state"

A great clip of John Berryman talking about the Dream Songs, and performing Dream Song 14.

Huffy Henry hid the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point,--a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could
do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

From Dream Song 1. More here.

Musk party

Ah, that warm, snuggly, vaguely funky aura of animal that is the grounding of almost every great perfume--yes, I'm talking about musk, or maybe I should write "musk," since in perfumery we only encounter a rarefied fantasy of the genuine article. I think we're all at least somewhat familiar with the history and hazards of synthetic musks, and way too familiar with the cheap ones that that are used in all things scented, from pricey mainstream fragrances to dish detergent. The Natural Perfumers Guild aims to take us away from all that by sponsoring a community event devoted to exploring the world of musky aromatics. A slew of bloggers and perfume writers, including me, will be reviewing and (here's the best part) giving away musk fragrances from some of the most interesting natural perfumers at work today. Go to Anya's Garden and Perfume Shrine for all the details.

The event is due to begin in July. Meanwhile, help me think about musks by telling me about the ones you like. If I had to pick a favorite myself, it would probably be Cuir Mauresque. CM may call itself a leather scent, but to me it is primarily a lovable musk. As for the cheap stuff, the best musk oil I know is the Fragrance Shop's 24K Egyptian Musk--a very refined, ladylike musk, as its name implies. It's just about the only simple musk oil I ever wear by itself.

Woman with a Cat, Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

Friday, June 4, 2010

"For myself I wept here..."

Over here it was that my love stole from me,
In his mercy, my heart and, farther on, my life.
Here with his beautiful eyes he promised me help,
And with the same eyes here he stole it back.
Over here he bound me and here released me;
For myself I wept here, and with infinite sorrow
From this rock I saw him leave,
He who stole myself from me and never turned back.

Michelangelo, translated by Richard Hooker

Drawing by Jean Cocteau, from Historia del Arte Erotico.

"The broken sunset declined..."

The broken sunset declined and was gone
and it seemed a delusion to ask for the gifts of the sky.
You lowered your eyes. The moon’s thorn blossomed
and you became afraid of the mountain’s shadows.

From "Erotikos Logos" by George Seferis

"Sun and Moon" from Aurora consurgens, 15th century

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm back, sort of

Oh—is it Wednesday night already? It’s been a long time since I neglected the blog this many days in a row without a good excuse, like a trip to Europe or a case of the swine flu. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy, and when not busy, obsessed with the work of William Vollmann. I said in my previous post that Kissing the Mask is so good I bought it twice, and that’s literally true. I first got it on my Kindle, believing it would be interesting but unworthy of taking up a space on the bookshelves. Twenty pages in, I was completely in love with the book and had to have it in the flesh, so to speak. I’ve finished Kissing the Mask and now I’m surveying Vollmann’s vast output, sampling here and there, trying to decide where to dig in. Any suggestions? (Please don't say Argall.)

I'm afraid you may be treated to a few upcoming posts about Kissing the Mask. Or perhaps I'll spare you. But in any case, if you read it, email me and tell me what you think. I'd love to discuss it. Meanwhile, here's a wonderfully alluring, creepy video featuring a Noh mask. It's actually a promotional video for a Japanese antique seller, which somehow makes it more surreal.