Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nosy Interview: Sierra Nelson

Sierra (photographed by Rebecca Hoogs) in A Beautiful Boomerang Nebula, © Hubble Heritage Team 

Sierra's praises are sung so sincerely by Seattleites I hold dear that it is easy to feel fond of her despite the fact that we've not yet met. She seems to possess that rare stripe of real kindness that radiates even via e-mail. I Take Back the Sponge Cake, her poetry and art choose-your-own-adventure book collaboration with the artist Loren Erdrich, can be purchased here, and her new chapbook, "In Case of Loss,"can be found nestled in the Toadlily Press Quartet, Embark. Sierra is co-founder of the Vis-à-Vis Society, a collaborative poetic team; if you live in Seattle, you can see Dr. Ink (a.k.a Sierra) and Dr. Owning (a.k.a Rachel Kessler) in action and get some poetry-science inspiration at MOHAI this Thursdsay

What do you smell like?  
For many years I smelled like bread because I worked in a small collectively run bakery in Seattle (Touchstone). That bakery no longer exists, and I think the smell has probably worn off by now. Too bad.

And for a short while, also years ago, I drove a '73 Plymouth Gold Duster: original gold paint on the exterior, front seat an amazing sky blue.  She was so beautiful, and broke down almost constantly; I never knew enough about car repair to keep her happy, or maybe nothing could.  She always smelled faintly of gasoline, a smell that I like, and during that time we were together I'm sure that smell rubbed off on me as well.

I like the idea of perfume but rarely actually wear it. Last summer I was on the small Italian island of Ischia and I was taken with a perfume that smelled warm and green to me, something like cut grass. My Italian is only so-so, but I'm pretty sure the man at the counter commended my choice of "scent of a man." Maybe that's why I liked it! I don't wear it often, but when I do, I find myself surreptitiously putting my nose to my wrist like I am receiving a message from a secret agent.

People have sometimes described a smell they associate with me, and for a long time I wasn't sure what it was because I wasn't wearing a particular scent.  But through some sleuthing I think I've traced it, at least in part, to a leave-in conditioner that lists its main ingredient as avocados but actually smells like honey.


What do you like to smell?
I like to shake hands with rosemary when I pass by, especially when it's growing in a gigantic bush as it often does in the Pacific Northwest (including in my front yard). I also really love the smell of sagebrush just after a thunderstorm (I did a lot of my growing up in Nevada, so the scent is nostalgic for me of the silver-grey mountains in Reno and Carson City).  I love the warm, dusty smell of typewriter keys (especially on an old electric that really hums and heats up).  And the red-green smell walking through a cedar forest.  I used to live in a building that always smelled deliciously like laundry soap (the basement laundry room windows were right by the front entrance). I like the progression of smells when making soup (onions and carrots, chopping fresh herbs, how everything smells as it's simmering together).  I love the briny blue smell of the sea, especially when it appears somewhat unexpectedly (like from a seashell picked up from a windowsill, or on a city street when the wind shifts just right).