“Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.” – Philip Larkin
Of course, what Larkin meant was that inspiration came from being deprived of something desired. And poets, time out of mind, agree. Larkin, like many 20th century poets was a jazz music fan and critic, which I think you can hear in his poems. He also eschewed fame and did not enjoy it. He even saw that as a deprivation.
In “Aubade” he contemplates the inevitability of death and how everyone must face it. It’s a dour piece of writing but then at the end, he points out more often than not, the ordinary requirements of our work rouse us from such thoughts –
“Work has to be done.”
Five or six years ago I was working as a banker. I was the guy who put in loan applications and opened checking accounts. I was not a great banker, at least not at first. I got in trouble a lot for not selling enough financial products.
At one point, those of us who were not selling enough credit cards had to go to a remedial credit card class, in which nothing was remembered except one thing. There was one young man who was very good at selling credit cards. And his “trick” was to call up customers, who had introductory offers, under the guise of just checking in on them. Then he would exclaim, “Oh wow!” and exclaim to them what the offer was.
We had to practice doing that “Oh wow.”
The bank was not always dark. But there was enough soul-destroying moments that I often found myself searching for poems online during work, just to catch my breath. I always felt like it was my own private rebellion. I knew they would not approve. But I would search for one like living water. Often I would print them out and hang it on a cork board to the right of my monitor.
The irony is, by the time I left the branch, I was becoming very successful by not doing what they wanted and by simply being honest.
I never did the “Oh wow” thing.
With A Few Clicks
With a few clicks you built a canal
for your wandering bark,
with unfurled sail. To wonder in
another stream altogether –
away from the stagnant pool
of numbers and bottom lines,
ties and a crease on the leg –
to that land where Heaney reigns
and Auden jests and Berry rails –
where Bradstreet’s lines are fixed
like Eliot’s point. What water
to dive in and swim on through!
But first the dark and dank
of the tepid pool shaken off.