“Daffodils” is not the kind of poem I’m used to writing. I joke that it’s my “white-guy-friendly” poem because it’s not particularly political or feminist, as most of my work is.
Structurally, it was unusual for me too. The childhood memories have been with me for decades, but the writing process began on the second page, where I talk to my grandma on the phone during lockdown. She asked if I’d seen any daffodils and we laughed because I hadn’t, because they weren’t by the trash. I was going to use that dialogue in a suite of funny pandemic poems, which I ran by a trusted first reader; she felt I was scratching the surface of something, that there was more to be unpacked, “more funny” to be shared.
Thinking about daffodils, I remembered my grandpa teaching me the Wordsworth poem on the way to school, how for a long time I’d wanted to write a poem about that. I thought, too, about the morbid sense of humour I’ve inherited from my mum’s side of the family in addition to an appreciation for words. I mentioned all this to my trusted friend, wondering aloud if I could make a cohesive piece or suite out of those connections. I was afraid I’d be trying to address too much, juggling the pandemic part with my grandma and that memory of my grandpa, who died of cancer when I was in my teens. “I don’t know,” my friend replied. “You’re writing about humour and illness and elders . . . I bet you could do it.”
So I wrote down those memories, and started weaving in the etymological bits. I find etymological hunting to be a great way of feeling closer to my ancestors, always finding surprising and meaningful connections. Dwelling in the origins and variations of words like humour and melanoma allowed me to crack open more symbolism around sunshine and darkness and more.
So that’s how “Daffodils” evolved from a conversation with my grandma in a pandemic suite to a six-part poem about my grandpa. I’m happy the different threads wove together successfully, and that I have this tribute to him, which is also a tribute to humour out of hardship, to my family and the written word.
Natasha Sanders-Kay (she/her/hers) is a neurodiverse author of Irish Catholic and Jewish ancestry writing from the unceded and ancestral lands of the hən̓ qəmin̓ əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples in what is colonially known as Burnaby, BC. Her chapbook poem Postmodern Mutt is available for free from Light Factory Publications at ReadingtheMigrationLibrary.