“Hedonist’s List of Desert Island Essentials” by Vivien Steels

“Hawaii Retreat with Palm Trees, Sunset” via Beyond Dream Art.

It’s always fun to play with the “stranded on a desert island” trope: what item, other than food and water, would you take/most like to have with you?

Before the age of laptops and smart phones, people cited favorite books, or maybe a diary or radio. It’s quite a challenge to figure out exactly what physical possession you just couldn’t live without.

But what if the opposite were true: that you could be on that island with anything your heart desires (no limit with regard to quantity or practicality)? Say the word, and it’s yours.

British poet and artist Vivien Steels has come up with quite a provocative scenario.


“Hot Chocolate” by Brett Humphries (oil on board, 2020).
by Vivien Steels

Blue iceberg from Arctic shores
melting into cool, mountain streams.
Chocolate Emporium effusing cocoa --
door always open, shelves always filled.
Cooking pot permanently flame-hot
to bubble water within its depths for
Chinese Jasmine-scented tea,
fragrance rising in coils of steam.
Tent, the size of small bungalow,
with bathroom 'en suite' included.
Bombay Curry House,
waiters and cooks ever-ready
to conjure spiced masterpieces
served on white plates.
Library, walls resplendent with books,
superb poetry section --
no overdue charges.
Softest duvet fattened with duck down,
hammock fittings to lasso two palm trees
under indigo sky christened with stars.

~ This poem first appeared in 21st Century Poetry (October 2001).
“Significance” by Elena Tuncer (oil on canvas).


“French Patisserie” by Debbie Cerone.

Isn’t it wonderful how Vivien’s mind works? I’m totally on board with the Chocolate Emporium, the “no overdue charges” library with its superb poetry selection, the curry house and the availability of hot water 24/7 for tea.

I do like how the poem is bookended by the beauty of natural phenomena: a “blue iceberg” and an “indigo sky christened with stars,” with all the creature comforts in between. 

Yes, that would be some desert island!


There are a few essentials I would add:

  • a jukebox playing all my favorite music
  • a French patisserie avec très beau pastry chefs
  • a “very twee” English tearoom hosted by Paul McCartney
  • a sandwich shop run by Paddington Bear that never runs out of marmalade
  • a Sunday salon frequented by cool writers and artistes
  • a private screening room with classic films selected just for me by secret husband Colin Firth

Oh well, it’s fun to fantasize, isn’t it? The point is that one’s choices says a lot about personality and priorities. 

What would your desert island list include?


Vivien Steels is a poet and painter living in Cornwall, England, who has been widely published in poetry presses and on the internet, sometimes with artwork. Her work is deeply influenced by the natural world, which she often uses as symbolism for the spiritual. Her paintings are intertwined with her poems, which they illustrate, and she has exhibitions of her paintings and poems. Vivien has designed/produced seven collections of her illustrated poems including, Promise, Mandala, Secrets, and most recently, Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees. For more, visit her website, Talking Paint.



Earlier this week I interviewed author-illustrator Aram Kim about her new picture book, Tomorrow is New Year’s Day: Seollal: A Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year. Though there are oodles of books about Chinese New Year, this is the first that I know of describing how Koreans mark the holiday. Leave a comment at that post for a chance to win a brand new copy!


Marcie Flinchum Atkins is hosting the Roundup this week. Be sure to zip on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere. Enjoy your weekend and Happy Lunar New Year!


*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on ““Hedonist’s List of Desert Island Essentials” by Vivien Steels

  1. My desert Island list would include living in the New York Public Library, endless pizzas with my favorite toppings, pots and pots of tea of all kinds, Beatles music playing endlessly with Paul and Ringo visiting live once in awhile to play some tunes, and lastly my whole family visiting once a week! My hubby can live there full time!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I second all of the above. What would I add? A pet store that works like a library–check out your dog or cat or favorite critter whenever you need some furry cuddles or a walk along the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m all smiles from your fab post Jama and had a happy laugh from your secret husband Colin… I love the poem and Hawaiian painting especially I want to go there sometime… my husband’s afraid I’ll never want to leave 🏝️So I’d add a tropical garden paradise to paint and write in, no worries of time or money or wars, Shangri-La type environ, thanks ☺️ xox!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely to see you back on PF, Jama. I did laugh when she wrote “the size of small bungalow” but the first I thought was a list of people. Because my whole family love beaches, I certainly would want to bring them along! I love that you want Paul & Paddington, then music, too! What fun this is to imagine! Happy weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this, Jama! I’ll add a good pair of binoculars and some birding resources. She’s already got the library in the poem, so no doubt there are some field guides there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Everyone’s ideas sound great to me! I would also like a (secret?) garden/flowers. Did you know that this will be the Year of the Cat in Vietnam instead of the Year of the Rabbit? Two out of the twelve years are different in Vietnam (the other is the Buffalo/Ox).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I’ve visited Hawaii I have always been satisfied with a good rental condo that has a well-equipped kitchen and a local market where one can get nice food to cook, especially locally-caught fish. A well-stocked Kindle with good books to read, and a nice beach chair. I’m happy to keep it simple.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My island would have books, paints, fabrics and threads, a garden to tend, lots of birds to watch and paths to walk…oh, wait. That’s my life!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So fun! Mine would somehow manage to have forests and meadows like Sequoia National Park. A hidden, endless library for sure, and plenty of chocolate, plus things like fresh raspberries and buttered sourdough toast. And sisters—I have great sisters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, what a bedroom!! Are you sure all the characters in those books wouldn’t keep you awake at night? Oh wait, maybe that’s the point. And why am I not surprised that you’d have to have endless coffee??!! I have a manual typewriter in the basement which I never use (too much exertion). I’ve gotten spoiled with soft touch keyboards . . .


  10. Jama, I love connecting with you again. I must admit that the poem you showcased is marvelous. It sparked my imagination of what the island on the Disney cruise with the little grands will be like. Not deserted but a different type of experience with a feast of food awaiting us. Now off to hot chocolate and looking back for your blog on the Chinese New Year book.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hoppy Year of the Rabbit, Jama! I love this post, AND everyone’s additions. Might I add a woodsy compound (think Highlights workshops a couple of decades ago), with EVERY Poetry Friday person, each with our own private wee cabin with metal roof and character & a typewriter, and a big old cozy house where we meet up to enjoy amazing meals & fellowship? Good walking trails, of course, and lots of open studio & crafting spaces (stocked for all our various endeavors), and an ever-replenishing thrift/antique store on site. Mr. C. could be the proprietor of said shop when he’s not busy pouring tea and reciting poetry at the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr C loves this idea — he can’t resist a good antique shop or having an audience for his poetry readings. Imagine all the good writing that could be done at a perpetual workshop!


  12. Thank you for this fun post, Jama, and the opportunity for a midday day dream! I would want my island to have beautiful gardens with flowers and birds that I know all the names of. And right in the middle a place to sit and read and dream and nap.

    Liked by 1 person

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