Tuesday Poetics: Empire of Scent

Grace is our prompter today for dVerse Poetics. She asks us to write about scents from our childhood or, scents in general. I have chosen to write about the library in my childhood home and the scents of it and the house in general. I have written a lot of poems about scents, usually night scents. So this is a departure for me. Come join us over at dVerse and find a new favorite poet! We’re closing the Pub down for a couple of weeks after Thursday for a vacation. The doors will be open though so come visit and catch up on past posts!

The Library of Smells

Book sniffin’ is an art I learned in my childhood.
Macbeth smelled of old blood and Little Women
smelled of banana bread.
All of Zane Grey smelled of dust and purple sage
and the Justice League comics smelled of potato chips.
Charles Dickens’ shelf smelled of must and mold and
old wedding cake and gruel
while TS Eliot smelled of coal fires and fog.
Salinger smelled of bubble gum and Tom Collins
and Dickinson smelled of old roses and apples.
Batman smelled of gasoline and
The one Archie comic smelled of drive-in hamburgers,
and Wilde smelled of potpourri and cigars.
The Bible smelled of incense and wine
and Sophocles and Euripides
and all the Greek plays and philosophies –
well, they smelled like Mrs. Karenakis’ kitchen
during the holidays.
Whitman and Kerouac both surprisingly smelled
of cold wind and Snyder smelled of cherry blossoms.
The whole library smelled of beeswax and lemon oil
and the vase of roses or magnolias on the center table.
Fried chicken wafting from the kitchen –
hot biscuits and pound cake.
I miss these scents of my childhood.
Somehow, books don’t smell the same today.

public domain image, closest I could find to my childhood home libary

public domain image, closest I could find to my childhood home libary


57 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 15:09:59

    Oh I do love the images you brought fourth… it’s like the text smells (just like it should) the reference to Great Expectations for Dickens was not lost on me… and no the books don’s smell the same any longer.


  2. MarinaSofia
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 15:29:55

    What absolutely wonderful smell associations with literary works! I am stunned at the accuracy of them – certainly my comics tasted of chips and my Little Women of cake (maybe even banana bread). This is a lovely, fun and very well thought out piece, full of literary allusions and delight.


  3. freyathewriter
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 16:13:13

    I love sniffing books – especially in secondhand and antique bookshops! So evocative – thank you for this!


  4. Linda
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 17:26:00

    Fabulous way to share your library. Thank you!


  5. kim881
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 17:45:41

    Wonderful! I am also a book-sniffer. I was at the library today and found myself getting up close and personal with some of the books.


  6. Victoria
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 18:27:29

    Oh my gosh, I just love this (if I still lived in SoCal, I’d say adore). You did such a brilliant job of matching the scents with the books–they fit perfectly. I’ll be posting mine in a while, but this is so good it makes me want to hide!


    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:10:32

      Oh Victoria, you silly-willy. I just adore you and don’t want you to hide. I have a feeling you’re an old book snifter like me. I’m Southern Southern so I use adore anyways.


  7. navasolanature
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 18:43:57

    Wonderful mix of smells and musty books.


  8. jillys2016
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:00:54

    Brilliant! I’m so glad to discover that you are a book-sniffer, too 🙂 Love this poem and the conversations that are sure to spring from it. To that friend who always asks, ‘what are you reading?’ — ‘what does it smell of?’ is my new counter-question!


    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:09:12

      That is great! I usually just respond, sniffing around a mystery or inhaling some sci fi/fantasy. They think I am cleverly using a different word for read. I tell them no differently.


  9. Grace
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:09:48

    I love how you each gave a scent or smell to all those books ~ Hey, I remember those comic books (with junk food) and that bible smelling of incense and wine.

    I agree with you that books today don’t smell the same as before ~


  10. Charley
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:27:41

    And you can sniff a Kindle or a Nook til the cows come home and come up wanting! Wonderful stuff! Your poem set me to thinking about the smells of Patrick O’Brian, Twain, Welty, Harper Lee… ye gads! A bookaholic could go crazy; and get arrested at Barnes and Noble. Lots of fun!


    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:39:31

      They all have their scents. The older books are best to sniff. It takes the new ones a bit of time to learn to exude themselves. they are so self-conscious and when they get a little age, they just realize they need to smell up the place and they do it!


      • Charley
        Jun 29, 2016 @ 18:27:02

        I’ve noticed my wife’s Austins smell like Victorian England (not London!), and our Dickens do as well (though I can’t vouch for it not being London).


        • kanzensakura
          Jun 29, 2016 @ 20:06:07

          London, at that time, would smell of their infamous yellow fog, although I know what my copies of Dickens smelled like, which is what I noted in my poem. I only read Austin when I had to and didn’t enjoy them. She wasn’t one of my favorites. Although I should add the books by Hammet smelled of cigarettes and hot dogs and single malt scotch.


  11. Victoria
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:38:34

    You bet I was and still am a book-sniffer. Love real books though Kindle is great for some things like traveling and huge tomes!


    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:51:40

      Yes indeed. Love my kindle. The leather cover has come to smell of sandalwood and rose oil. So it does smell. I guess all the books on it together smell of that smell. My tablet doesn’t smell but …


  12. Michael
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 22:19:24

    I loved this…what a wonderful way to recall those books from your childhood, so well done…


  13. im.Perfectly~Leah
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 23:11:43

    You capture a vintage book store or a book store , well


  14. C.C.
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 23:46:35

    I like this idea of particular books having a specific scent attributed to them!


  15. http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 01:38:19

    Sublime. I love what you did with this prompt.


  16. Sanaa Rizvi
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 06:21:33

    Such wonderful associations of scents with the literary works, Toni ❤
    Beautifully penned (as always) 🙂

    Lots of love,


  17. Bryan Ens
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 08:51:48

    I love the scents associated with those books…but such a sad twist at the end that books don’t smell the same anymore. Beautiful write.


  18. maria
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 10:58:14

    Wow. Cleverly done and beautifully put, Toni! Hmm… Lots of classics here I’d love to read one of these days. 🙂


  19. Imelda
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 11:15:35

    I love this. I like how you associated the books with certain smells and how, in the process, you gave a picture of the reader of the books. 🙂


  20. Linda Kruschke
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 11:19:31

    I love how you found the scents in each book and the variety of books you included — from comics to the Bible and much in between


  21. Jennifer Wagner
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 19:19:02

    Spectacular! The entwining of each author and associated scents makes me nod with pleasure and agreement.


  22. Walter J. Wojtanik
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 19:42:15

    I love the fact that each book brought smells specific to the story enhancing their allure. I sure missed on that experience, but happy to read about it.


  23. Sue Anderson
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 13:55:17

    Well, this one is just about perfect. Scratch that. It IS perfect. Love it. =)


  24. Mish
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 15:56:41

    Wow, this is delightful. I have to admit I am not a book sniffer which left me even more intrigued at every line of this. It must have been wonderful to have a library like that in your home growing up.


  25. Sherry Marr
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 20:40:21

    It’s true, books don’t smell the same. I love all of the memories in this poem.


  26. kaykuala (@hankkaykuala)
    Jul 02, 2016 @ 07:11:54

    How fun it is to relate to books! It is just amazing One must have a running knowledge of all the authors and characters within. You’ve shown it all here. Well done Toni!



  27. Josslyn Rae Turner
    Jul 03, 2016 @ 02:37:26

    “Macbeth smelled of old blood and Little Women smelled of banana bread.” What a strange but lovely combination. 🙂


  28. 5h2o
    Jul 04, 2016 @ 09:17:19

    I really like this a lot. A great deal of joy went into it obviously, but I also love some of the smells you chose for certain authors (like Kerouac smelling like cold wind — of course). Nice!


  29. lillian
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 07:18:48

    VERY late to reading! 😦 LOVE love love all these literary allusions and their associated scents — especially Mrs. Karenakis’ kitchen! So very clever and just really a wonderful read. Smiling I am!


Thank you for reading! I try to reciprocate all comments. If you want me to visit a particular post, please direct me directly to that post.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: