In the poem ‘Scent,’ the speaker reflects on her past. She explores her struggles to disengage from the melancholic “scent” of the time gone by and the longing for what could have been. The poem ends with a poignant image of the speaker pressing the pages back into their folder, trying to close the door on the bittersweet nostalgia they brought up.
‘Scent’ by Jennie S. Redling is a short poem about a speaker’s nostalgia and regret. She wanted to be an actor, but could somehow never bring her dream to fruition
When the poem begins, the speaker is looking at old artwork and programs she created for a theatre company when she was younger. Her longing to be an actor comes to her like a sad gust of wind. She realizes that she never found what she was looking for. She decides to put away the reminders of her lost dreams; however, she cannot escape the pain of her memories.
Structure and Form
The poem consists of a single stanza that does not follow any specific meter or rhyme scheme. It is a perfect example of modern poetry that uses free verse effectively.
The poem is structured as a reflection or personal meditation. The speaker recalls a past time in her life, examines her feelings, and reaches a conclusion. The poem has no obvious breaks or shifts in tone or focus. Additionally, the sentences are often enjambed or run on into the next line, which gives the poem a natural, conversational quality.
Lines 1 – 12
Stroke old artwork,
and dread arising
surprisingly from these leftovers
In these opening lines of the poem ‘Scent,’ the speaker begins by focusing on a specific physical sensation she experiences as she touches an old artwork, perhaps for the first time in a while. The next line establishes that she used to do a certain creative job in small theatre companies in her younger days. Further, she talks about her unfulfilled dream of acting in those productions.
She adds that though the artwork that has been put away in a cupboard for years is old and neglected, she cannot let go of it. The following line, “Allowed them living out of sight,” says that for years those artworks were out of her sight, yet she let them still breathe in obscurity as somewhere, she could not let go of the symbolism they held for her past dreams.
In the following lines, ” But this morning….from these leftovers,” the speaker’s sadness is reiterated. She says this morning, the whiff of sorrow that has risen from these remnants or leftovers of her past life has engulfed her. So, though she has stowed away the tangible reminders of her failure on a distant shelf, hoping to move on, her pain resurfaces with unrelenting intensity.
Overall, these lines establish the mood of the poem. The speaker mentions that the memories of her past surround her, and the fact that she could never become an actor has left her feeling sad. The imagery used in these lines effectively creates the poem’s setting, and the reader is seamlessly transported to that room where the speaker is going through these emotions.
Line 13 – 25
Of that forsaken
time when I was
Into their folder, to close tight again
Against the bite of
Lines thirteen through twenty-five of the poem ‘Scent‘ express the speaker’s fragility and vulnerability in a past situation. The speaker compares herself to a glass blown into a very thin and delicate shape, implying that she is easily broken or hurt.
She also uses the word “forsaken” to suggest that she might have felt abandoned or betrayed back then. In further lines, “aching for life to pervade me,” the poet mourns her unfulfilled yearning for a source of life or solace during the trying times in her past. This line also suggests that her past endeavors, which were to find what she sought, were fruitless, leaving her disappointed.
The poet later says that the speaker is compelled to suppress her emotions and memories, locking them away to shield herself from the pain of unmet expectations. These lines reflect the speaker’s poignant exploration of unrealized desires and the need for emotional self-preservation in the face of disappointment.
The phrase “fresh, trenchant Memory” indicates that the memories are still painful and sharp, even though the speaker tries to push them away. These lines convey a sense of longing, loss, and the struggle to find meaning and solace in life.
‘Scent’ is a free verse poem within a single block of text (a literary structure known as block form). The poet included twenty-five lines in this block-form poem, taking readers through a speaker’s memories of the past.
The final version of this poem was published in 2003, though the poet first wrote it in the year 2000.
‘Scent‘ is a sad poem in which the speaker is engulfed by loss. She reminisces on her younger days and considers the possibilities she had back then.
In the poem, one can infer that the protagonist could not realize her dream in the past and was struggling in those trying times. It is conveyed in the line, “Of that forsaken time, when I was, A glass blown to a hair’s breadth.”
‘Scent’ captures the feeling of loss that comes from the bittersweet memories. A few other similar poetry where the poets demonstrate the effect of memories is:
- ‘Effects‘ by Alan Jenkins – This poem reflects on the poet’s memories of his mother after her passing, as he tenderly holds her hand and waits to receive her belongings.
- ‘Death and the Moon‘ by Carol Ann Duffy – In this poem, the poet explores the loss her partner’s passing has left in her heart.
- ‘Patterns‘ by Amy Lowell is a poem about a woman’s loss during World War I.
- ‘Dreams‘ by Langston Hughes – This is a poem that revolves around the loss of one’s dreams.