Perfumes, Persons, and Poems. Perfumes as Poems, Part I: Platitudes Aplenty!
by, 13th October 2011 at 02:43 PM (2824 Views)
[B][SIZE="4"]Proof of (Perfumes = Poems)[/SIZE][/B]
Looking back at my rather modest and very inchoate “theory” of perfumic and poetic identity, I must say that today (a decade later—gasp!) I find it rather [I]quaint[/I] (a word which I hesitate to use in the wake of Alberto Gonzales's notorious dismissal of the Geneva conventions through the use of the same, but it really is the best choice in this case, as the reader will shortly see). The subtitle of my presentation, “[I][COLOR="seagreen"][B]A perfume is a poem[/B][/COLOR][/I]” was “[COLOR="seagreen"][B]What we can learn about poetry from perfumery?[/B][/COLOR]” (see intro, [url]http://www.basenotes.net/blog_callback.php?b=2327[/url], if you are new to this blog series...)
Although I had initially planned to post my little “theory” directly translated and unedited, I decided instead simply to concede without protest that what I really came up with was a list of platitudes. This frank admission is obviously intended to preempt criticisms to the effect that “[B][I]This is not a theory![/I][/B]” so I'll just go right ahead and admit that too! Hopefully, as a felicitous consequence of this selfless expression of abject humility, we'll be able to move swiftly to more substantive and edifying discussions rather than squandering our precious time quibbling over the proper use of the word 'theory'.
So, in what follows, I offer two sets of platitudes: one about perfumes; the other about poems. Bear in mind that the basic idea here is that [B]the word 'poem' can be read in the place of the word 'perfume', and [I]vice versa[/I], throughout the text ([I]mutatis mutandis[/I])—thus establishing the identity of the two![/B]
[B][COLOR="darkorchid"][SIZE="4"]Ten Platitudes about Perfumes[/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]
[B]1.[/B] Perfumes can be bad in many different ways and for a variety of different reasons.
—Everything must be just right for a perfume to be great.
—Even a small flaw can prevent a perfume from being good and can even make it bad.
[B]2.[/B] Perfumes can be complex or simple.
[B]3.[/B] Complex perfumes have distinct parts (stages).
[B]4.[/B] Each part of a complex perfume can be simple or complex.
[B]5.[/B] Great perfumes have structural coherence (although that is not sufficient—see #7).
[B]6.[/B] The form of a perfume (simple or complex) does not determine its quality.
—Some simple perfumes are very good; some complex perfumes are very bad.
—Some simple perfumes are very bad; some complex perfumes are very good.
[B]7.[/B] Great perfumes comprise quality components (although that is not sufficient—see #5).
—Some brilliantly composed perfumes are disasters because of poor-quality components.
—Incoherently composed perfumes are disasters even if they cost a fortune to produce because of their high-quality and sometimes rare components.
[B]8.[/B] A huge amount of knowledge must be acquired before even having a chance at creating a good perfume. But knowledge alone is not sufficient.
[B]9.[/B] It would probably be impossible to produce a great perfume as a first trial.
—Great perfumes must be edited and re-edited, revisited and tweaked over a period which may span a number of years.
[B]10.[/B] Perfumes can be over-edited (reformulated) to the point where the beauty of the original is completely destroyed.
[B][COLOR="darkorchid"][SIZE="4"]Ten Platitudes about Poems[/SIZE][/COLOR][/B] (continuing the sequence of numbers, to avoid confusion)
[B]11.[/B] Great poems are not composed by committee (counterexamples are most welcome!!!)
—Committees create marketing jingles, not poems deserving of our critical attention.
[B]12.[/B] All poems are multiply interpretable.
[B]13.[/B] Even seasoned critics can disagree vehemently about the meaning of a poem.
[B]14.[/B] Critics may also disagree with the author about the meaning of a poem.
—Socrates once observed that if you want to understand the meaning of a poem, don't ask the poet to explain it to you.
—To commit the “Intentional Fallacy” is to erroneously constrain or determine the interpretation of a text by appeal to the author's professed (or inferred) intentions.
[B]15.[/B] Although anyone is at liberty to call a text a “poem”, critics tend to focus on a small subset of the many texts claimed to be poems, the ones rich enough to be susceptible of complex and subtle interpretation.
[B]16.[/B] Interpretations of poems can be good (insightful) or bad (shallow).
—“[B][I][COLOR="red"]This sucks[/COLOR][/I][/B]” is not a fruitful interpretation of a poem—which is not to deny, however, that it might be true.
—“This sucks” is no more and no less than a negative emotive response which conveys only the reader's disapproval, with no indication of why.
[B]17.[/B] Some people hate all poems and even the very idea of poetry.
—They obviously are not good critics of the genre and tend to avoid poetry altogether.
[B]18.[/B] The fact that millions of people may have incorporated a “poetic” text (often rhyming) into their psyche through massive exposure (AM radio, etc.) does not mean that the text is good.
[B]19.[/B] The beauty of a poem may lie in the mind of a reader, but that does not mean that there is no such thing as doggerel!
[B]20.[/B] Great poems are not composed by computer program.
—Even the best vocabulary, and complete knowledge of every innovation of the entire history of poetry would not suffice to produce a great poem.
—The missing ingredient in such as a case would always be: [B][COLOR="purple"][SIZE="3"]inspiration[/SIZE][/COLOR][/B].
[CENTER][B]****************end of proof****************[/B]
Now, if it is true, as I maintain, that perfumes are poems, then all of the above platitudes about poems should apply equally well to perfumes, and all of the above platitudes about perfumes should apply equally well to poems ([I]mutatis mutandis[/I]). In other words, according to me, I have now presented [B][COLOR="darkorchid"]Twenty Platitudes about Perfumes and Poems[/COLOR][/B]. Are all of these statements true of both poems and perfumes? If not, where are the disparities between the two cases? To refute any of my claims, it will suffice to produce a single counterexample.
I anxiously await your contributions to this debate, which has lain fallow for far too long in a quasi-solipsistic state, [B][COLOR="teal"][SIZE="5"][/SIZE]O fellow fragrance travelers![/COLOR][/B]