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Looking for inspiration? There is an app for fans of poetry now


Screenshot of the Poetry from the Poetry Foundation app

Fear not, fans of poetry: The app world has not left you behind. Some will even help you write your own poetry.

Poetry from the Poetry Foundation, free for iOS and Android, is my favourite 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 "humour" 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 don't have to strain your eyes trying to read on small smartphone screens. And you can mark poems as favourites or share your discovery over Twitter, Facebook or email.

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 don't look and maybe don't even read the same in the app's digital text format.

If Shakespeare is your main poetry fixation, Shakespeare by PlayShakespeare.com, free for Android and $10 for the full iOS version, 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.

Shakespeare's works
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.

If you are interested in writing a poem rather than reading one, a great place to start is Haiku Poem, for iPads and Android devices. 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've not written a poem in years, this offering's gentle, cheerful style may help you get back in the groove.

For writing poetry in a longer style, Poet's Pad may do the trick. It's $10 for the iPad and $5 for Android (though it was on sale for $2 this week), and 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, lets you export your words as a standard .txt file by email, and it has an audio recorder if you want to test your 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. Finally, for an example of how to make poetry really work on mobile devices, Touch Press' The Waste Land for iPads is well worth its $14 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.
Quick call

The shoot-'em-up game series Hitman has arrived on Android shortly after iOS in a new format: "Hitman Go," a strategy-based board game. You play your way across the game grid, avoiding enemies before hitting your target. Clever, and just $5.

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