This quote from Larkin made me ask myself, _______ are for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth. I started to wonder how other poets might answer this. What are your daffodils? How would my favorite poets answer this?
I thought that maybe New York City or painters would be for Frank O’Hara what daffodils were for Wordsworth, though it’s funnier to say that lunch is for O'Hara what daffodils were for Wordsworth. Barbies are for Denise Duhamel what daffodils were for Wordsworth, and angels could be for Rilke what daffodils were for Wordsworth. Orgasms might be my own personal daffodils, as well as Elvis and Jim and James Dean. I do love all three. Last night I dreamt of Elvis singing, Are you lonesome tonight . . . Are you worried we drifted apart, and I was, even in my sleep. I woke up thinking of the subconscious or unconscious . . .
Of how the unconscious might be for Jung what lonely clouds were for Wordsworth.
The penis might be for Freud what Tintern Abbey was for Wordsworth.
The ground of being was for Tillich what the leap of faith was for Kierkegaard. The overman was for Neitzche what the stranger was for Camus. Or would it be Sisyphus?
Today is Camus’ birthday. The New Yorker once called Camus the Don Draper of existentialism.
Maybe meaninglessness was for Camus what deprivation was for Larkin . . .
I read in The Paris Review that Larkin tried to make every day and every year exactly the same.
My mind was spinning with all of this when I talked to Nicole Santalucia who joined in to say:
A ferry ride is for Whitman what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A beard is for Whitman what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
Deep breathing is for Whitman what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A bulge in tight jeans is for Whitman what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A secret is for Dickinson what a pants suit is for Hillary Clinton
An attic is for Dickinson what a broach is for Gertrude Stein
A fly is for Dickinson what a nipple is for Gertrude Stein
Stillness is for Dickinson what Picasso is for Gertrude Stein
A nobody is for Dickinson what an everybody is for Gertrude Stein
An apple tree is for Dickinson what a poodle is for Gertrude Stein
A raindrop is for Williams what salvation is for Bradstreet
A chicken is for Williams what a husband is for Bradstreet
A black dress is for Maria Gillan what a paintbrush is for Frank O'Hara
Then David Lehman added his commentary and brilliance, writing:
The irony is that Larkin's statement (which I believe I quote in a poem of mine "Desolation Row" -- it is in my "New and Selected Poems") is applicable not only to Larkin but to Wordsworth as well. In other words, for Wordsworth, too, deprivation was what daffodils were to the character who sees them in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."
These are the crucial lines: "For oft when on my couch I lie, / In vacant or in pensive mood / They [the daffodils] flash upon the inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude." The condition that triggers off the memory is solitude and vacancy - deprivation, in other words.
As for me, well, daffodils are for me what deprivation was for Larkin.
Champagne, no pain, and Mary Jane are for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A phone conversation with John Ashbery or an email from Nin Andrews is for me what daffodils.
Chocolates, snow, and myself are for David Shapiro what daffodils are for Wordsworth.
Or music stands, philodendrons, and philosophy are for David Shapiro what daffodils are for Wordsworth.
Shapiro is on the phone right now and I can hear him typing in the background. I recommend "champagne at night" to lift his spirits.
David (Shapiro) says: "'Champagne at Night' is a good title for you. Lindsay thinks so, too."
I am writing a novel while we talk.
O Natalie Wood!
You are to me what Natalie Wood was for me in 1964.
Kim Novak is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
Kim Novak does not stand for anything other than Kim Novak.
Ava Gardner said, "Elizabeth Taylor is pretty. I was beautiful."
Marilyn Monroe singing "Heat Wave" is for me what fishing and hunting were for Ernest Hemingway.
Stacey is for me what roses were for Robert Burns.
Stacey is for me what silence was for John Cage.
Stacey is for me what Paris would be for me if this were 1973.
Stacey is for me what a psalm was for David.
Stacey is for David what David is for David.
A two thousand dollar violin is for David Shapiro what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
Alban Berg is for David Shapiro what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A James Tate poem is for John Ashbery what daffodils were for Wordsworth
A painting by Matisse is for Mrs. Matisse what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
A flood is for Noah what the Tower of Babel was for modern linguistics.
Aer Lingus is for Charles Mingus what the Maltese Falcon is for Same Spade.
According to David Shapiro,
God is subtle but not malicious,
And I agreed.
In fact, I added,
God was for Albert Einstein what daffodils were for Wordsworth.