“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest.”
–Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time.
Aromatica Poetica combines our love of literature with our love of smell and taste in a colossal endeavor to promote and celebrate the oft-neglected senses. Here you will find essays, stories & poems, interviews, and reviews that engage with smell and taste through a variety of lenses including the literary, artistic, and scientific.
Many books have influenced the direction of Aromatica Poetica, from Perfume by Patrick Suskind to Fragrant by Mandy Aftel, from The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. For an ever-expanding list of inspirations and influences check out our Smell & Taste Reading List.
In Rachel Herz’s The Scent of Desire, we were dismayed to read that “The American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment currently gives the loss of smell and taste a value of only 1–5 percent of the total value of a person’s life’s worth, while loss of vision is given a value of 85 percent.” This strikes us as being insulting to those living with anosmia and blindness alike. Thus, we welcome people with diverse perceptual experiences to write freely.
“Without the shy, fugitive, often unobserved sensations and the certainties which taste, smell, and touch give me, I should be obliged to take my conception of the universe wholly from others. I should lack the alchemy by which I now infuse into my world light, color, and the Protean spark.”
–Helen Keller, The World I Live In.
Meet The Aromatica Poetica Gang
Dr. M. Leona Godin (founding editor) is a writer, performer, educator, and the author of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness (Pantheon 2021). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Catapult, Poets & Writers, Electric Literature, among others. Godin has lived on pretty much every band of the sight-blindness spectrum, and has, in recent years of increasing blindness, come to be very fond and appreciative of smell and taste.
Alabaster Rhumb (art director) is the creator of most of what your eyes appreciate at Aromatica Poetica. He has also designed some cool botanically-inspired masks and art prints, which you can learn more about HERE and HERE. Besides being a stellar image-maker, Alabaster is a brilliant singing composer. Check out his book of songs at AlabasterRhumb.com.
CATHERINE HALEY EPSTEIN (columnist) is a multi-disciplinary artist, award-winning writer, designer, and curator. She wrote a book titled Nose Dive (2019) which explores the intersection of creativity with the science and anthropology of scent. She is the co-founder of the Odorbet, a growing vocabulary for our noses which resides online and in a growing database offline for now. Articles of note include “Primal Art: Notes on the Medium of Scent”, Temporary Art Review (2016). She writes about contemporary art and practice and culture at her platform Mindmarrow. She conducts workshops on the use of scent in creative practices, advises companies on scent-related projects, and continues to collaborate with artists and writers on unique initiatives that explore intersections between art and other disciplines. She is currently a candidate for her master’s at Northwestern University. You may follow her on Instagram @mindmarrow, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions on the nose front, or if you are interested in contributing to the Olfactory Report!
Kira Grunenberg (assistant editor) is a freelance writer and the founder of Throw the Dice and Play Nice – a digital publication dedicated to under-appreciated facets of music and the performing arts. Her body of work and professional insights can be found in the likes of American Songwriter, DownBeat Magazine, No Depression, and several music startups. Get in touch with Kira on Twitter @shadowmelody1.
Kerry Kijewski (assistant editor) is a Canadian writer, podcaster, advocate, and sensitivity reader who works to improve accessibility and representation in the arts. She was born low vision, but now is nearly blind. Writing using all available senses matters greatly to her. You can find her podcast, Outlook, On Radio Western. Or check out her blog, Her Headache and follow her on Twitter @KKHerheadache.
Emerald Lin (assistant editor) is an undergraduate majoring in English and American Literature at New York University. Raised in Taiwan and now living in the United States, Lin is interested in themes such as immigration, culture, language, and homesickness. She is also interested in food as a language and works that explore it as such. Her work has been published in Aromatica Poetica.
Esther Sermage (assistant editor) completed her first translation assignments from Swedish into French at the age of 17. She has been translating ever since, soon leaving the technical and academic fields for the audiovisual industry, then for literature and theater. She has studied literature, film and linguistics in Paris, Stockholm, San Francisco, and Mexico City, and worked as a film and television editor. She currently translates novels (Torgny Lindgren, Aris Fioretos), theater (Lars Norén, Christina Ouzounidis), poetry (Ida Börjel, Nathalie Quintane), classical poetry (Andrew Marvell), short stories (Hjalmar Söderberg, Leona Godin), tales and film scripts. In 2020 she made an enthusiastic debut in publishing as an editor at Aromatica Poetica. She is a great fan of John Waters’ Odorama technology.
If you are inclined to contribute your fiction, nonfiction, or poetry to the Aromatica Poetica conversation, please visit our Submissions Page for more information.