Lancome is like Estée Lauder in creating carefully tailored blockbusters to fit the palette of the times. Tresor, La Vie Est Belle are enduring megaliths; bestsellers; sugared concentrations so smoothly rendered; infallibly consumer tested that the masses, passing through airline terminals, cannot ever resist. Poeme – a dry, multifaceted, innovative and complexly rendered spiced floral of gloom – a perfume to me that contains an inherent morose negativity – curiously malign, an oddball- a fragrance that gets on the nerves – did not fit into this pattern of full bodied inculpability. Though cultish, and cherished (Poeme most definitely has its fans : there is nothing else quite like it, with its low registered woodish vanilla tones shot through with glumful flora – Himalayan poppy, mimosa; freesia……….though to me it smells more like embittered chrysanthemums; dead, resentful carnations); a close bodied resonance that is understated; reserved, in its boldness and its strength………………I nevertheless always interpret it personally as a grating, passive aggression.
I can’t help but always associate this creation by Jacques Cavallier with my first very isolated months in Japan ( the perfume had been released just a year before, and remarkably, did have some takers ). One student of mine in particular, a woman in her late thirties of a dour and scratchy disposition who was trying to seduce me ( how is it possible that I actually stayed at her apartment? Overnight ? What oblivious gullibility was this …...What was I thinking ? ) would douse herself liberally in its negativizing eroticism. …………I cannot deny that this scent has a pull; it has depth; it has a magnetism (like being dragged down into hell): and though I did always find the smell somewhat nauseating in some way I couldn’t quite put my finger on, I can’t deny also that it was depressingly hypnotic.
Cycling along in the rain today, with the vintage parfum extrait on the back of my hand (almost beautiful actually; so orchestral; glinting; gradated), I pondered that strange time in my life when I had deliberated isolated myself for the peculiar reason THAT I HAD TOO MANY FRIENDS. I had flown to Japan to be alone. My London social life had overwhelmed me ; I no longer wanted to be contactable for the latest film, theatre piece, art exhibition or dinner party on any given day of the working week – especially with such a poor paying teaching job; my roster of people – much as I loved each one of them individually – was doing my head in. I had had to pull away; start afresh, no matter the cost. And so I just left my partner, my family and friends and flew to Japan – an alien nation on the other side of the world – and put myself willingly in social solitary confinement thinking it was what I needed, to think and to be ‘zen’ only to find myself so lonely at times it bordered on desperation, surrounded by unsuitable people I had nothing in common with but who were marginally better than nothing; and avoiding the nocturnal unwanted seductions of J-temptresses wearing Poeme.