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App Smart

Poetry by any other app


Fear not, fans of poetry: The app world has not left you behind.

Some of these apps will even help you write your own poetry, or reacquaint you with classic works.



Free on iOS and Android

Poetry from the Poetry Foundation (right) is my favorite way to read poems digitally. It includes thousands of poems, from Shakespeare to modern-day poets. While most are text entries, some are also available as audio recordings.

The app’s main purpose is to help you discover new poems. When you fire it up, whirling graphical dials spin automatically to select two categories at random, perhaps “worry” and “youth” or “humor” and “life.” Then you see a list of all the poems that fit these categories.


Tapping on a poem in the list takes you to a page where you can read the poem’s text or, if available, listen to an audio file. Tapping on a poet’s name will take you to a page about the poet’s life and work and other interesting details.

The size of text can be increased so you do not have to strain your eyes trying to read on small smartphone screens. And you can mark poems as favorites or share your discovery over Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail.

If you prefer poetry of a particular type, you can sort by mood, subject, or poet. Or you can search by title, poet’s name or the first line — particularly useful if, like me, you remember how a poem starts but forget its title.

I love the interface, but some poems do not look and maybe do not even read the same in the app’s digital text format.



Free on Android; $10 on iOS, full

If Shakespeare is your main poetry fixation, Shakespeare by PlayShakespeare.com (right) is for you. The app contains all 154 sonnets, and you can either browse through them or search for a word or phrase if you can’t remember the whole poem.


It also contains all of Shakespeare’s plays, and detailed information on him and his works. The $10 iOS edition contains much more, of course. If you prefer to try before you buy there is a free iOS version, though many reviewers complain that it nags you to rate it.

Haiku Poem

Free on iPad and Android

If you are interested in writing a poem rather than reading one, a great place to start is Haiku Poem. This app coaches you to write haikus by counting each line’s syllables, suggesting words you could include and offering you artwork to decorate your poems. It is aimed at schools, but if you have not written a poem in years, this offering’s gentle, cheerful style may help you get back in the groove.


Poet’s Pad

$10 on iPad; $5 on Android

For writing poetry in a longer style, Poet’s Pad may do the trick. It acts as an interactive writing platform.

The app has several tools for writing poems, including word and phrase suggestions, a built-in dictionary, and a rhyming words generator.

It organizes your poems by stanza and lets you export your words as a standard .txt file by e-mail. It also includes an audio recorder for those who want to test their poetry performance skills.

Sometimes the interface is a little clunky, and the Android edition was last updated in 2010, but it is still a useful tool for writing poems and storing your creations in one place.


The Waste Land

$14 on iPad

Finally, for an example of how to make poetry really work on mobile devices, Touch Press’s The Waste Land for iPads (left) is well worth its price. The app displays T.S. Eliot’s poem in its traditional format as well as images of the original manuscript, marked with edits in pen. There is also a video of a complete reading of the poem, as well as audio readings from Eliot himself and actors like Viggo Mortensen synchronized to the text so you can read along.

If you have never read the epic poem (shame on you!), this app is an incredible introduction.

Kit Eaton writes on technology
for The New York Times.