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What Poets Really Want

Jan 06, 2022

"I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love."

—The poet Frank O'Hara

The internet is full of "what to give the writer in your life" lists. But honestly, very few of us want another Hemingway mug, if ever we wanted one at all.

So I set out to gather information on what poets want. A guide for any occasion. To compile this guide, I turned to who knows best: poets.

On Twitter, I posed a simple question to poets: What do you actually want? I said  responses need not be limited to *things* but certainly could include them.

So without further ado, here is what you've come here to find out.

The short list of what poets want


My unscientific summary, distilled from responses of 60+ poets

  1. Give them a membership to a local museum or theater
  2. Buy more of their favorite pen, or a special pen on their wishlist
  3. Give them money to go toward application fees or rent
  4. Gift certificate to a local bookstore or coffeeshop 
  5. Stock them up on their go-to beverage, or surprise them with a special beverage (psst... only give alcohol if you know for sure they'd welcome that)
  6. Help them arrange or afford time to themselves to write
  7. Really nice headphones
  8. Bath bubbles
  9. Supplies for their pet(s)
  10. Clothing (think a comfort item or a conversation piece)
  11. Their favorite food delivered to them at home/restaurant gift cards
  12. A massage or a manicure 
  13. Art supplies

The long list of what poets want, in their own words


Spoiler alert: almost no one reported wanting a new blank notebook... unless it's the exact kind they use. In fact, some vehemently discouraged this. We're rather particular about our notebooks!

  • a single day where no one calls, emails, texts, or dms me (Ally Ang)
  • uninterrupted time! (Caelan Ernest)
  • Support from loved ones in mundane, daily ways like, “Hey, were you going to work on that essay tonight?” Also, a small gift certificate to a locak bookstore (Paul Hlava Ceballos)
  • Museum membership; donation to a fave indie press in my name. (Nicky Beer)
  • A fellowship. An assistant to triage and delete most of my emails. Time (see “fellowship”). (Anna V.Q. Ross)
  • Fees covered for an online workshop or series of classes! (Gunnar Lundberg)
  • I want poetry to be seen as more than just words on a page. I want it to be seen as an agent of change. I want it to finally get its flowers. (Luis Pabon)
  • Ok, but I honestly do want a very fancy fountain pen— and like a friend or 2 who aren’t poets who will read poetry books with me for fun. (J. Jabaily-Blackburn)
  • a record player. moleskines in lavender, violet, mustard, and teal. pilot precise v5 and v7 pens in black, pink, violet, and cerulean. a back up toner for my printer. friends and rivals who like to cowork. friends who like to collage with tweezers. (Cyrée Jarelle Johnson)
  • An e ink monitor so I dont hurt my eyes as much hunch over the computer. A fancy printer. To already know how to make a website (@JLR_III)
  • Perhaps a weekend away in some quiet beautiful place without Internet connection. (Freke Räihä)
  • 12 months rent (Harvey Blogman)
  • forests and rivers and bird songs, and time spent to be with these elements (Celina McManus)
  • I'd love if submittable offered gift cards and people bought them for me, so that, for once, I could uncheck that "no fee" box. (Aaron Tyler Hand)
  • Handwriting lessons. Photography books. Movies like Orphe on DVD. Five days by myself with some poetry and my own work. A non-smartphone. (Colette Arrand)
  • local indie bookstore gift card, coffee/tea, snacks, beginner art supplies (Shelley Wong)
  • Submission/workshop/retreat fees, subscriptions to my favorite presses, donations to my favorite orgs, book me an editor, gift me a social media manger! (Jeni De La O)
  • an editor who says “I like your work” LOL (Cody Stetzel)
  • One time I got a Starbucks tumbler that they’d do free black coffee every time I used the tumbler for the whole year and I loved it. (Aline Mello)
  • non material: an explicit indication of support: talk to me about my poetry, read it, share it. material: a good recording microphone; printer toner; reusable water bottle. ideal: a meeting with a literary, publishing, and/or booking agent; an editor; offers to collab (Aerik Francis)
  • Tickets to shit, nice ass headphones, travel gift cards, rare teas, a cabin in the woods, time, bean bags (Danez Smith)
  • hoodies, sneakers, art books, art, a massage, fancy dinner, robot vacuum (Sin á Tes Souhaits)
  • cash, cursed or blessed or charmed things, public mention, back scratches (Peter Joshua)
  • NOT JOURNALS! I have very specific journal needs - spiral bound, no lines, preferably top flip, esp as a left hander - so I have all these journals that were gifts that I never used and will never use! But people gift this to writers ALL THE TIME. (Tanzila Ahmed)
  • an all expenses paid vacation. (Arykah B)
  • a hellofresh subscription. cool post-it note dispensers. also, a really nice coffee mug. (Joy Su)
  • i love receiving anthologies or collections that line up with what i’m working on at the moment.
  • More words on my skin. A lighter. And some 0.7mm ballpoint pens (@Bermynthegayang)
  • Time (Jacqui Morton)
  • a nice conversation/ conversational piece (C.J. Omoti)
  • an hour or two a day to write. (Matthew Wimberley)
  • A babysitter and a massage. (Dr. Rebecca Lehmann)
  • It really is money I hate to say (Nicole Stockburger)
  • lots of time, quality sleep & uninterrupted peace; someone to deep-clean my house monthly; delivery of tasty, healthful food (from restaurants or home-cooked); train trips; trips to New Orleans, Chincoteague, NYC, & SoCal/the Pacific; birds; enough money to assure I have time... (@Professor_Gaga)
  • words of appreciation on previous work. offer to read a draft and provide feedback. headphones. a physical bookmark. gift card for books. nice food delivered. (Paloma Sierra)
  • Readers, listeners, sounding boards. Dear ones with whom to read work (your own, theirs, other people’s) out loud, to gather ideas and edits. (Robyn Carliss)
  • Bath bombs, overnights in quiet Air BnBs, and all the books I’ve been eying but can’t afford. (Ronnie K. Stephens)
  • Free mental health meds, Spotify but for poems (@JamTeezy)
  • Does submittable do gift cards? Lol Would love submission fees covered for a year. (Jessica Hincapie)
  • A year of Spotify premium, an Uber eats pass or them to order me delivery food, someone to sedate me tbh (@lonelyoffices)
  • a consistent poetry/prose editor, mentorship around essays/CNF, a “have u went outside” text everday, motivation to read/write regularly, to learn how to translate poetry to other mediums, an assistant, regular virtual open mics with other writers, a massage. (KB Brookins)
  • Please buy me poetry books! Good ones!  Or any books really. I can't afford to buy my own books but I would really love to amass a collection one day. (Zamiya Noor)
  • Massages to help my back, a laptop with NO access to internet or youtube, an unlimited supply of blue light glasses, my favorite ballpoint smooth pen, and manicures cause I want pretty nails (Liz Estrata)
  • How bout you sneak into my cloud save and give the WIP I'm least proud of a good copyedit. (david m de león)
  • A truly mundane answer, but: gift cards to (independent) coffee shops/teahouses/etc.! (Patrick Kindig)
  • An inbox full of accepted proposals for arts grants. (Lisa Richter)
  • Subscriptions to lit mags (Tania Asnes)
  • ...Ghosts of Tsushima. An Elden Ring pre-order. A PS5. Rent money. (Kosi)
  • A good fuck. A decadent chocolate dessert. A massage. A weekend getaway in the woods. A heartfelt, handwritten letter. (Julian Guy)
  • The absolute weirdest thing you can find at a thrift store (Alannah Hensley)
  • Extra Live TV access so I can watch national games blacked out from NBA TV... Um, it's very specific, I know. I can't keep waiting 3 hours to watch Kemba Walker ffs. Don't even get me started on Blazers game access. (Not only am I writing a basketball WIP; ball is life is art) (Pamela K. Santos)
  • an esoteric tea blend , new 0.38mm pens , a fancy bowl of ramen , and leather pants (Andie)
  • rent money (Sophie Klahr)
  • It really is money I hate to say (Nicole Stockburger)
  • If someone bought me a tuition to a writing retreat I’d know they love me AND think I’m a decent writer worth investing time and practice in (L.A. Marks)
  • Whatever it is, not a f’ing journal... I have thousands of diaries I never use. (Paisley Rekdal)
  • I’ll take snacks. (Oliver de la Paz)
  • I want a refill for the v. beautiful fountain pen a beloved student gave me but I don’t know how to refill and also maybe a chewy gift card so I can buy toys that my three idiot rescue dogs can chew on instead of interrupting me whilst I take out, then replace, all the commas? (Christina Olson)
  • Fees! fees! fees! (and nice tea, candles, logs for the fire). But mostly, fees. (Polly Atkin)
  • Yr long museum membership to get inspired, candles, food gift cards, scarves, subscription box to something cool (Jasminne Mendez)
  • It bears some checking in with some writers, but some snacking, wine liquor, fired audio books or podcast lists, subscriptions to mags, museums, theatre to get the thoughts flowing and time well spent with friends (Lupe Mendez)
  • a naruto uzumaki crest rug. a fitted cap. some typa arts and crafts set. a playlist (@yeahmancass)
  • Time and space for myself. (Luisa A Igloria)
  • Gift cards to local cafes! Gift cards to local bookstores! (Elisa Rowe)
  • tea, chocolate, candles, a hike (Jessica Rae)
  • i love receiving anthologies or collections that line up with what i’m working on at the moment. (SG Huerta)

Thank you poets for chiming in. What a list. 

I hope you get what you want.

P.S. Perhaps you want to spend more time keeping a notebook this year—if that's you, join us.

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