Atomizer poems by Elizabeth A.I. Powell [published by LSU Press]

A professor of writing and literature at Northern Vermont University, Elizabeth Powell writes poems that immerse us in what fellow author Dianne Seuss describes as ‘the perfumery of seduction.’ Harnessing her sense of smell and recalling often painful memories through scented snapshots, we are plunged into her world, seeing the world not only through her eyes, but through Powell’s nose. The fact that fragrance and memory are so entwined is now far better known – and scientifically proven – but here, we share scenes in which the narrator weilds her perfume like a weapon:

I hold my atomizer like a lightsaber. I am learning the kung fu of demure.
I have mastered the koan of coy.

Later in the first poem in this collection, which is split in to sections of Top, Heart and Base notes; Powell dscribes the bottle itself, and how it’s inherently connected to the woman who gave it to her.

My Atomizer’s a DeVilbiss Art Deco made of opalescent glass I inherited from my flapper great-aunt, it sprays the world out atom by atom.

(Memory): Like me she feasted on Lorna Doones and linden tea and strange men.

Later, Powell describes the power of scent, because ‘Fragrance Summons angels. I desire Proustian angels, different from Episcopalian ones.’ She uses scent to summon memories and time travel at will:

Come angels. Olfaction is the evocation of memory. Come angels.

Let the atomizer release the top notes of my story, that which evaporates most
quickly. Let the atomizer do what it does best: release the distance between autobiography and criical analysis.

I have lost time, and I want it back.

A fascinating and emotional collection to delve in to, there’s no doubt reading these poems will also make you revisit fragrances that have personal connections to your own memories. We suggest picking up a bottle that reminds you of someone you love, or a time you were truly happy, and allowing the scents to stir those images, as Powell does so movingly in this book.


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