throughsmoke: an essay in notes

New Rivers Press | forthcoming in 2019

We are wooed by perfume. It vexes us. The fleeting habits of fragrance charm and irritate. 

Continuing the work of The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume, Jehanne’s first book of creative nonfiction, throughsmoke: an essay in notes, explores the connections between perfume and poetry, between smell and speech. Working in the tradition of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Elaine Scary’s On Beauty and Being Just, texts that are intimate and compressed but are also rooted in the language of scholarship, throughsmoke weaves together meditations on perfume with memories of Jehanne’s nomadic childhood as daughter of American diplomats, close readings of poems by Baudelaire, and reflections on the transmission of trauma.

The book includes interviews with other collectors, with scientists, with a literary scholar who studies the role of scent in the French Symbolists, and with the founder of a perfumed soap company. throughsmoke frequently looks to classical and contemporary literature, philosophy, and pop culture for answers to the questions: How do we become obsessed with something as seemingly frivolous as perfume? And why might a love of the frivolous be necessary in dark times such as these?