One of the few books I purchased in December is The Collected Works of T. S. Elliot. As I read Elliot’s poem “Preludes,” the number of times Elliot alluded to smells stood out. Here are a few;
” The winter evening settles down
With the smell of steaks in passageways. “
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint smells of beer
From sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
This kind of writing can entertain me for hours. Because he said it is winter, I thought that Elliot had the steaks wrong. I might smell steaks from summer barbecues, but winter?
I went back to the lines. Reading them again reminded me he had described a passageway. An apartment building? Steaks indoors would, of course, broadcast a strong smell, and for me an appealing one.
His morning smells of consciousness had me making choices . Which of the smells he identified did I think were pleasant? I found not appealing the stale smell of beer nor wet sawdust. He ended with what for me is the wonderful smell of coffee.
Interesting that the only smell he labels is beer. My imagination and memory identified the rest.
I will use this poem as a reminder for my writing. Describe more smells. At least for this reader, they gained my attention. All for ninety-nine cents.