Kathleen sits in Zodiacal Light and Milky Way, © Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)
Kathleen Rooney is a nosy nomination courtesy of Elisa, her frequent collaborator. Kathleen is an inspiringly prolific poet and essayist; a founding editor of Rose Metal Press; and, so I've heard, a consistent wearer of dazzling frocks. Her latest book, the novel in poems Robinson Alone, comes out this very day!
What do you smell like?
I wish I could be sure. But just as it’s almost impossible to tickle yourself, it’s almost impossible to smell yourself. Or at least it’s almost impossible for me. At the moment, I smell like Tendre Madeleine, which is what I’m wearing today because it’s a good fall smell. But I just emailed my husband, Martin Seay (who happens to be one of the best-smelling people I know) to see what he thinks I smell like and he said, “I think you smell like dryland herbs being lightly crushed under the hooves of a juvenile bighorn sheep.” Then he added, “To be clear, you smell like the herbs, not the sheep. I just added the sheep because the herbs needed to be crushed by something.” I’ve had other people tell me I smell “clean” and like “cut grass” or “green plants,” so he seems to be onto something. Also, typically, green scents don’t work well on me, so maybe that’s partly because I’m already “green.”
What do you like to smell?
Skunks, cool damp basements in the summertime, and birthday candles that have just been blown out
(which I always associate with the smell of ghosts). When I was little, I thought that gray hair smelled like smoke. I also love—and have always loved—to smell my sister Beth, who is three years younger and my best friend. We used to share a room, and when we were small and traveling as a family we’d usually share a bed, and I always felt comforted by having her near and specifically by smelling her. She’d usually fall asleep before me and I would feel reassured by being able to lean over and smell her hair, her scalp. She still is one of the best smelling people in the world to me. Funny smell story: when Beth was pregnant with her first baby, Rose, before she and her husband had told anyone, I knew by smelling her. She had me and Martin and her in-laws all over to our parents’ house in the Chicago suburbs for dinner (without telling us why, and it wasn’t unusual because we get together often). When I came upstairs into the kitchen to hug her, I could somehow smell that she was pregnant and knew that she was going to announce it. We made eye contact and she looked at me all, “Don’t spoil the surprise,” and of course I didn’t, but it was an amazing feeling to be able to know something so major without being told in words. Now, not surprisingly, I love to smell my niece, who is 14 months old and smells quite a bit like Beth.