Howl and Other Poems was published in the fall...

City Lights Books' Pocket Poets Series made poetry portable.

I started this post back in October, before becoming aware of quite a number of Poetry Apps for smartphones — that’s what I get for being stuck with a BlackBerry Storm, which sucks at storing apps and is so bad that no one in their right mind would write an app for it much less have one…er…ah…yeah.

Anyway, I’ll amend this post at the end with a few links to good lists of apps, which you can try if you are an iPhone or iPad user or perhaps even an HTC or Android user.  At some point, I’ll join you.  Here’s what I wrote in October:

My pal Andy Swan had a lively dialogue recently that I overheard on Twitter.   He was talking about letting innovators innovate and not be beholden to some altruistic standard that dictates what they should work on.

(Microlending site is wrestling with this question, too, as they recently admitted their main competitor is, well, “Farmville,” the game where you can waste time tending a virtual farm instead of helping Kiva build real farms.)

Anyway, one of Andy’s points was about whether innovators should focus on solving societal ills or focus on solving problems that gnaw at them.

“What if Edison[‘s] not being able to read at night is not a legitimate problem while others starve,” Andy wrote.

He went on to say, “Innovators should build what they love.  The market will distribute.”

I wondered what I would build if I were to just build what I love.  And it got me thinking.  I would love to build a new way of distributing poetry; one that makes it easy, portable and enjoyable for people.

What I’m thinking is something between and app and a book.  As transformational as City Lights BooksPocket Poets series, only with better design and more consistent, high quality poetry.

Of course — like my idea from over a decade ago for a poetry cable TV channel — there’s no money in it. Would that my interests were more like the virtual corruption you can participate in on “Mafia Wars,” but there it is.

I mentioned the idea to a dear friend of mine who said that perhaps I’m wrong; maybe there is a market for it. Not a huge market, perhaps, but certainly more than just a handful.

What features would you want in such an app, device, or “book”?  Searchable index by poet, title, first line, assumed first line, theme, occasion, time-period, style?

It wouldn’t have to be a huge amount of storage on a device or would it? Could it be in the cloud and accessed via the cloud? Would you have to build in incentives for people to continue using it, contests, triva, etc.?

I’m just throwing this out there and will wrestle with it down the road. I may even pull together a Survey Monkey to gauge the interest need for features, and where the money is going to come from.


Well, it turned out there are quite a few apps out there already, so my idea was a little late in the game.  Here are some links to some lists of apps you may want to explore:

Quick Access to Poetry in the Age of Technology (NY Times)
An essential poetry app as addictive as raspberries (Poetry Foundation)
Poetry Apps (Randall Weiss blog)
Poetry Apps (Emerging Writer blog)
Apps for Poets (App Advice b log)
A New Poetry App for the iPhone (Brian Spear)

I like what Spear, a poet and editor of The Rumpus, says in that last post about his ideal poetry app (back in May of 2010!):

The poetry app of my dreams is an aggregator, one that scans the web daily for new publications and then pulls them into a reader.  It would need to push traffic to the online journals of origin and would have to include a way to limit the places you receive poetry from–maybe set it up so that the user gets a poem from a place and then decides whether or not to receive future updates from that journal.  Swindle is a start toward that on the web, but I haven’t found anything like that for the iPhone yet.

Has that need been met?  Do you have a poetry app you recommend?  Do you want to build one with me?  What would you build if you could build what you love?


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If you missed poet Paul Muldoon on The Colbert Report, including the poet and Stephen Colbert reading Muldoon’s poem “Tea,” you must watch it now:

Paul Muldoon on The Colbert Report

Colbert is doing more for bringing poetry to a wider audience than just about anybody. Shall we compare Stephen Colbert to a Summer’s Day?

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I was reading Steven Johnson’s Wall Street Journal article on “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” Monday morning and began to wonder about how the E-Book will change poetry publishing and writing.

I love books, always have, since I was a little kid and my Aunt Liz gave me a copy of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

I collect books.  Not in the way a rare or first edition collector does, although I do have a small group of 1sts, but rather as a collector of, well, books, of literature.

Many of the books have their own stories, especially the books of poetry that line the dozen or more shelves in my living room: where I purchased the book, how I learned about the poet, what I was doing in Berkeley or New York or Paris or India or wherever when I bought it.

Now along comes the Kindle.  How will that change the way I read or write poetry?  How will affect how I buy poetry? How empty my bookshelves would seem if all my books were in electronic form.

Most of the poetry titles I buy fall into three categories: the latest collection of poems by poets whose work I am interested in (or poets I know); new poets I read about in Poets & Writers or find in a journal; and books I stumble upon either in a used bookstore (less frequent these days) or the local bookstore chain.

One thing I find disturbing about Johnson’s review of the Kindle experience was how he (or any Kindle reader) could suddenly stop reading one book and quickly download another.

While I appreciate that hyperlinks may help illuminate a text or help you learn more about what you are reading, it bothers me that books will never be read the same way again.

(And if hyperlinks are de rigueur in E-Books, can ads be far behind?).

Of course, this can lead, to use Johnson’s own words to, “Entirely new forms of discovery.”

I like what Johnson says about imagining “a software tool that scans through the bibliographies of the 20 books you’ve read on a specific topic, and comes up with the most-cited work in those bibliographies that you haven’t encountered yet.”

This reminds me of my old practice of scanning the Index of biographies of famous poets for the names of writers associated with them.  Eliot–>Pound–>Joyce, is one voyage of discovery I remember well.

But this can be taken to the extreme: I’d hate to see an “intelligent” recommendations search incorporated such as they have on Amazon: “Readers who are reading this book are also reading…” Ugh.

I’m intrigued, but also a little concerned about the notion of “a la carte pricing,” which Johnson says “will emerge, as it has in the marketplace for digital music.

“Readers will have the option to purchase a chapter for 99 cents, the same way they now buy an individual song on iTunes,” suggests Johnson. “The marketplace will start to reward modular books that can be intelligibly split into standalone chapters.”

So, for fiction, we’re looking at the return of the serial.  But what about poetry, which may have to devise another pricing scheme, such as “per line” or a minimum purchase per poem.

(And how will poetry fare when it is “competing with every page of every other book that has ever been written”?)

If the Kindle already includes blog or newspaper subscriptions, can journal or individual poet subscriptions be far behind? How about a “Poem-of-the-Month” Club? Anybody game?

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