Sara Caldiero-Oertli: Scratch 'N' Sniff Vagina Poetry | 5 Spot | Salt Lake City Weekly

Sara Caldiero-Oertli: Scratch 'N' Sniff Vagina Poetry 

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Poet Sara Caldiero-Oertli has written and produced a limited-edition board book titled Snatch ’N’ Sniff: Vagina Poem and Picture Book, a collection of eight poems matched with eight pictures of vaginas and scents. Her reading of the poems (at Ken Sanders Rare Books, Saturday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.; see Essentials) will include scents, music and dance.

Why a book about vaginas?
It’s the idea of not using the words that we normally use to express our sensuality; trying to find a new language for sensuality. I think it’s a very quiet language. [My hope is that people] think about their sensuality in a new way; different from their sexuality.

Where did your inspiration for this project come from?
Originally, it was probably a funny idea that came up at a party late at night. But it revisited me when I started studying Lenore Kandel, an amazing beat poet trying to re-create sexualized language. Her book, The Love Book, got banned in San Francisco, of all places, in the late '60s. It was republished in 2003. It’s taking very vulgar, explicit language, and turning it into something that’s beautiful. I’m a big fan of hers. She’s really into experimenting with language, using these words that we normally would think of as nasty bedroom talk, and then using it in her poetry.

The concept came to me in the late ’90s, and then, in 2010, at the beginning of the year, I held my first anonymous vagina photo-booth party, where women can go in and take their own pictures. I didn’t really want to be involved in that aspect of it, because a lot of them are my friends, and it gets a little awkward. I liked the idea of it being anonymous.

Any revelations from the photo booth?
As I encountered the pictures, I found that I would start seeing somebody’s face, that kind of matched their vagina. So I’d be like, “Oh my gosh, I know that’s her vagina.” It’s a resemblance, like a mother-to-child resemblance. I try not to think about that too much, but I definitely noted that. Some people, when they’ve seen proofs, they’ll say, “That’s me!” Other people make a lot of comments about the vaginas. Like, “Oh my gosh, look at that!” So I hope the models don’t get offended by the comments.

How did scratch & sniff come into play?
The idea is that what a person does, or their occupation, imposes a scent on them. Some of these are occupations. The Italian cook smells like garlic, the stripper smells like money. [Making it scratch & sniff was a] painful experience. I tried making my own stickers. I read about the process. It’s basically about encapsulating scented oil, and then when you scratch the sticker you’re breaking those little capsules. The problem is that the encapsulation takes a special chemical. I tried making something without encapsulating, with glue and oils, and they just didn’t work, they didn’t last. I tried getting a chemist to collaborate with me, but they’re not those kind of guys. So I started looking on the Web, and most people who are making scratch and sniff stickers are making big orders, way bigger than mine. And then I finally lucked out and found one that would make a really small order for me. That’s my sticker journey.

What will the reading be like?
There’s going to be musicians playing atonal music. There’s going to be some dancers doing something antidancing—doing movement in a way that you may not be used to. I’m also going to take people through all the scents, just trying to engage all the senses. I’m not going to include taste because it’s too complicated, but taste is definitely implied through the scent, I think. Some of them conjure up tastes, like garlic. I’ll be experimenting with the performance of it, for sure. It’s not going to be a normal reading. I don’t go up and read behind a podium. [Ken Sanders Rare Books is] a very small place, a very awkward place, but people get packed in there, and it’s like a center, I think, of alternative art that’s going on in the city.

Where can people buy your book?
It’s a limited edition of 79. I made 95, because there’s a lot of unforeseen things that happen. You take the best of the batch. Right now, my plan is to get it into places that sell artist books. That’s the community that I’m trying to hit. Printed Matter in New York, those kind of places that specialize in artists books, handmade kind of things. The closest thing that comes to it (in Utah) is Ken Sanders. 

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