The power of scent to raise a memory has been scientifically proven, as has the link between scent and emotion, one that perfumiers strive to tap into. This article in The Harvard Gazette explains the science: Smells are handled by the olfactory bulb, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other areas of the body’s central command for further processing. Odours go directly to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory – and the oldest parts of the human brain.
And although we list taste as one of the five senses, science says that everything we taste is by way of being smelled. No sense of smell, no sense of taste.
Here are some haiku I think convey the sense of smell very well, even if they almost all use the word ‘scent’! I hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part look at haiku that engage with the senses beyond sight, I’ve had fun putting it together.
fallen eucalypt …
cut into stove lengths
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)
scent of the seedbed turning
a deeper brown
from Before the Sirocco (NZPS, 2008)
at Uji the fragrance
of roasting tea leaves
Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)
The translator’s note to the haiku, written in 1691, is that as yamabuki flowers (Kerria japonica) have no fragrance, they must borrow smells from the roasted tea.
Uji was once one of the most important tea-growing areas in Japan. Read more here. It’s interesting to note that although the yamabuki plant is not a rose, its name is often used to mean ‘yellow rose’ in Japanese literature!
migrating geese –
her scent finally gone
from my pillow
from another country: haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer, 2011)
in the alleys
orange blossom scent . . .
the rest escapes me
from Autumn Moon 2.2 (2019)
otoko kite heya nuchi suisen no nioi midaru
a man enters
the room, disturbing the scent
Yoshino Yoshiko, tr Makoto Ueda
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women
(Columbia University Press, 2003)
two boys giggle
as he enters the bike shop …
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)
has a name
Roberta Beach Jacobson
from H Gene Murtha Senryu Contest, 2019
setting aside the book
to smell her hair
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1, 2020