Mark Robinson, Simulated Fragrance (2015)

Glenn Nishi, Hardly Glance (2015)

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
--your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

                     this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

                                       and knew

                      what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me. 


Michael Ondaatje (1982) from The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems. New York: Vintage International, 1997





Michael Ondaatje’s poem “The Cinnamon Peeler” is a complex examination of the role of scent in sexuality, identity, and the expression of love. Through the use of food-related imagery, the poem traces the evolution of the speaker’s relationship from casual sexual encounters, to a public and committed romantic partnership. Ondaatje uses each stanza to illustrate the infinite ways in which the sense of smell is how the couple experiences the world and communicates.
— Rachel Beskau
Cinnamon has a very strong and distinct scent, and Ondaatje compares this particular quality to the speaker’s sexual desire for the woman. There is a strong link between the sense of smell and the past and future worlds that the speaker is imagining. The speaker’s desire is so strong that even rain would not wash it away. The poem ends with the speaker’s wife showing that she is willing to be “the cinnamon / peeler’s wife” and to revive the desire between them.
— Melliza Quetua

Sara Grieve, Untitled (2015)


In all four of the images that Robinson has produced, the cinnamon is concealing her face. The images communicate the idea that the woman is only defined and recognized by the scent of cinnamon. She is not identified by her outer appearance. Her only distinct feature is her scent, which is not even hers but the speaker’s. Robinson’s project shows the speaker’s ownership of the woman.
— Melliza Jayne Quetua
Grieve’s choice of medium brings something inherently private, a bed sheet, and places it in the public domain in order to capture how the relationship in the poem is also private, but through scent, becomes public. The highly detailed and unique compositional qualities of the piece relate to the content of Ondaatje’s poem in provocative ways, especially the first stanza in which the speaker expresses to his lover, “I would ride your bed / and leave the yellow bark dust / on your pillow.” The stained bed sheet indicates the permanence of the love-making as well as the potential obstacles created by it. The bundles of cinnamon are masked or hidden within the sheet’s folds, but the failure to accomplish this completely suggests that the “evidence” of the couple’s love-making is in the open and obvious to everyone. The red string alludes to the Chinese and Japanese legends of the “Red String of Marriage” which states that those connected by red string are destined to be lovers. This red string connects the stained sheet (representative of the female lover) to the bundles of cinnamon (the Cinnamon Peeler himself), suggesting the strength and power of their love.
— Rachel Beskau
In Nishi’s project, only half of the woman’s face is shown, and across her chest appear the words “hardly glance.” The material used to write the words seem to be the “yellow bark dust” that is mentioned in the poem. Once again, this expresses the idea of the speaker marking the woman as his territory.
— Melliza Jayne Quetua
Nishi’s piece highlights the ultimate ability of intimacy to surpass concealment. The woman’s body is covered by the layers of ink that represent additional odours in the poem, and all the viewer is left to see of her body are the love-marks covered in cinnamon. In this way, Nishi accentuates the power of cinnamon over other odours by layering his materials. The cinnamon is the focus, even though all the other colours (or “scents”) are there and in greater quantity than the glittery material of the cinnamon. The power of this scent is so strong that it transcends the two-dimensional aspect of the piece.
— Rachel Beskau


RACHEL BESKAU (ENGLISH) is a second year English student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University; she plans on becoming a teacher at the secondary school level. 

SARA GRIEVE (FINE ARTS) is a full time student in pursuit of a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts with an end goal of Art Education. Her chosen areas of study are painting and ceramics, however she approaches art and concepts openly and is keen to explore both traditional and nontraditional mediums. 

GLENN NISHI (FINE ARTS)  is a student majoring in Fine Arts.  His favourite medium is printmaking and he hopes to become a Print Technician.

MARK ROBINSON (FINE ARTS) is a Fine Arts student at KPU, and he has no large plans for the future. He simply knows that creating art will be part of whichever plan he decides to follow.

MELLIZA QUETUA (ENGLISH) is majoring in English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Following the completion of her BA, Melliza plans to teach English as a second language.