Writing Smells

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.

8 thoughts on “Writing Smells

  1. Gleaner Hall Ltd January 2, 2014 / 3:13 pm

    terribly interesting to break down Elliot’s writing into smells. I have a tendency to overlook things like that when reading. Good to be reminded “to smell the roses” so to speak when reading.

    • fictionfitz January 2, 2014 / 3:18 pm

      It is the way it hit me this time. I think smells in writing have potential. Thanks for your comment.

  2. New Hampshire Garden Solutions January 2, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    I have more trouble describing the fragrances / odors of plants and fungi than I do with any other part of my blog.

    • fictionfitz January 2, 2014 / 7:45 pm

      I can’t imagine

  3. irinadim January 2, 2014 / 7:41 pm

    Excellent write! Thank you for highlighting the importance of smells in writing.

    • fictionfitz January 2, 2014 / 7:43 pm

      Thank you, much appreciated.

  4. jhvn January 2, 2014 / 9:32 pm

    TS Eliot is indeed great. Smells go more directly to the brain than any other physical sensation and are SO important to me.Why do I ignore describing smells when I talk or write? I’ll be more aware of olfactory nuances henceforth. Thanks.

  5. Carole Webber January 3, 2014 / 9:56 am

    I hope this does not inspire you to “smelly” writing. I doubt it.
    Very interesting observation about TSE and his use of smells in his writing. I will begin to look for it in the writings of others.

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