Sunday, January 07, 2007

the smell of rain

I went out for a brief walk this afternoon. It was raining, but not so hard you needed an umbrella (I hate umbrellas anyway). And so very strong, the smell of rain.

I remember once reading out a poem of mine and having someone come up after the reading and note that I'd used the phrase 'the smell of rain'. I couldn't tell if he liked it or was simply taking the mickey (the latter, I suspect, as he was a very 'cool' poet and I am, manifestly, not).

I wondered about the smell. To me it's always been obvious. But today I decided to go and find, and here, via the ABC and CSIRO, is some hard data. The common rain smell comes from a gas called petrichor. Apparently, volatiles evaporate from plants and are absorbed by rocks, concrete etc. When the rain hits the rock, the volatiles are released into the atmosphere. That's why I can particularly smell it wandering along concrete paths and past sandstone walls.

If it's good enough for CSIRO, it's good enough for my poem.

Now to use petrichor in a poem.

11 comments:

derek said...

petrichor is good. i will use it in a poem too. most probably an epic of sorts. it will appear in a themed journal issue some time this year. something like "the drought".

Jill said...

Hi Derek,
Look forward to your poem. I've already got petrichor into a draft. Whether the poem sees the light of day is a different matter.

What's the journal? Sounds Australian if it's about 'the drought'.

Cheers, Jill

derek said...

kinda speculating. the theme doesn't exist yet, nor the poem. but i was imagining something like 'meanjin on the drought'. unlikely, but i'll sure be ready.

thinking about the pros & cons of watering my lawn takes up about half my day. look forward to reading you petrichoric poem jill.

Jill said...

'If you put it out there, it might happen' kind of idea? Could work. Sometimes I get guilty turning on a tap. Still, there's plenty of water in the world tho' it seems to be mainly going to oceans.

The petrichor poem is a long sequency thing. Still needs much work. Hasn't made it to the computer yet.

libramoon said...

The smell of rain brings to mind the song "You Look Like Rain" by the Boston, MA (USA) now late band Morphine. Included is a line: "I can tell you taste like the sky, 'cause you look like rain."

This line repeats itself to me with "smell like rain" replacing the "look" when I use a particular shampoo that smells like rain. Singing in the shower, you know.

I love the image, either way.

Peace,
libramoon
libramoon42@mindspring.com
http://emergingvisions.blogspot.com

Jill said...

Thanks libramoon for the comment and stopping by. A shampoo that smells like rain sounds retty special. And thanks for that reminder of Morphine. Peace, Jill

Jill said...

I meant 'pretty' special.

Genevieve said...

Of course there is a smell. What a funny person, far from being cool, he probably can't smell much at all.
Thanks for doing the hard yards on this one, Jill. What a lovely word petrichor is.
I have just returned from a beach house on the Bellarine peninsula, very short of water indeed, with a damn full flush toilet! and ordinary showers. Awful, truly awful guilt. But I am bucketing rinsing water all over the place, and my normally arid garden is quite delighted. Guess we should enjoy it while we can.

Genevieve said...

(i.e. back at home I am bucketing, that is. Can't do much about the other place unfortunately.)

Mark said...

Thanks, Jill, for that explanation. I've always believed that rain has a smell – and love it. But what about the smell you get before rain falls, as in 'I think it's going to rain,' *sniff, sniff*?

That could be the extra static in the air from the rain clouds…

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