Poets have slightly different holiday tastes than do Average Joe and Plain Jane. On my list this year, I have all sorts of things that the “normal” folks probably would not think to ask for, but then, eccentricity becomes an expectation once you’ve told people that you’re a writer. For better or worse, here’s a list of a few things I’d like to get, and probably, some of your writer friends would like also:
1. The Best American Poetry 2012: This year’s collection, compiled and edited with the help of Mark Doty, has quite a few poets I admire personally, including my own writing mentor, Erica Dawson. Reading good work often leads to writing good work.
2. The 6.5 Habits of Moderately Successful Poets. This is another book in the category of “things I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t.” After reading the reviews, I’m pretty convinced I should at least familiarize myself with it.
3. Cool new bookends. I have this affinity for bookends — there’s a certain stability and finality that they convey, I suppose. Antique stores and online vendors alike offer great opportunities to pick up a piece of history while keeping one’s texts ship-shape. There’s also this air of refinement that bookends offer, and I suppose that’s another draw for me. I like classy touches, and bookends fall into that category often.
4. Fine writing instruments. My all-time favorite vendor for Waterman pens has to be Levenger. I don’t usually plug businesses here, but over the years, Levenger has provided me with reliable, aesthetically pleasing fountain pens and a plethora of cool “writer toys” that remain meaningful even today. The pen I typically use to start drafts (a Waterman Phileas) came from there probably about ten years ago, and the briefcase I use for all things writing-related is also a Levenger product. If you haven’t paid them a visit yet, I highly recommend it. The writer in your life will thank you.
5. Gift card #1: Staples. If you’ve been a regular reader of mine, you probably know by now about my unhealthy obsession with office supplies. My favorite store is definitely our local Staples. From paper clips to printer cartidges, Staples allows me to feed my fetish for writerly goods.
6. Gift card #2: B&N. Sorry, other booksellers. I’m a fan of Barnes and Noble’s brick-and-mortar establishments. Somehow, they’ve managed to preserve that certain air of old-school bookstores while staying current with technology and trends. And before my writer friends get upset with me for not patronizing my local small, independent bookstore, allow me to say that here in my location, we unfortunately don’t have such an animal. To use an old football idiom, here in my town you have to “go big or go home.” It’s BAMM or B&N, and the people under the green awning have better customer service skills and actual knowledge of their wares.
7. Gift card #3: Apple. I love my iPad. I like my apps, my games, my music, and my movies. I try not to write using my iPad, simply because it’s so recreational — there are too many distractions there. But for everything else in my life, the iPad is a wonderful tool. I use it in the classroom, at home, on vacations, and in workshops, seminars, and classes. For everything that’s NOT writing-related in my life, my iPad is the perfect companion. (No, I was not compensated for saying this — it’s just true).
8. Vinyl records: I love the sound of music on vinyl. There’s such a history and an art that goes with listening to an honest-to-goodness record. Mostly, I use my record player for classical music. I have all my other media players for more contemporary stuff — PC, iPad, etc. do a perfectly good job with modern music, but for Handel’s Messiah and Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops, I gotta have my vinyls. Call me antiquated if you will.
9. Coffee. Not the stuff in a blue can from the grocery store, the good stuff. Yes, I grind my own beans. And yes, I do have three separate coffeemakers in my house: French press, percolater (percolator?), and finally, Keurig single-serve. I typically use the big French press for company, the percolator for Sunday mornings when everyone is having coffee, and the Keurig for everyday, nothing-special single cups. That hackneyed expression about “a little blood in my caffeine stream” holds true here. Coffee is my gasoline.
10. Gift subscriptions to my favorite magazines. By keeping in touch with what’s happening on the literary front, I’m better equipped when sending out submissions and manuscripts. The great thing about getting subscriptions for Christmas is that the gift is enduring — every time a new issue arrives, I’m reminded of the person who kindly thought of me and my ambitions.
So, there you have it — one Florida poet’s guide to giving for the coming holiday season. If you’re out fighting the insane crowds today, good luck. And here’s hoping that you get everything on your wish list, as well.