Poetry App, Shakespeare's Sonnets, The Waste Land and iF Poems
No "Josephine Hart Poetry Hour" was complete without Hart at some point referring to the importance of "the sense of sound" and "what Robert Frost described as 'the sound of sense'". It was her belief in the value of hearing poetry read aloud that led her to assemble casts of great actors to give readings of great poets. That same belief now animates the prosaically named Poetry App (iPad/iPhone/Android, free), which has been produced by the foundation that bears her name after her death in 2011.
The opening screen takes you into a cosy, bookish study complete with crackling log fire and crackling log fire sound effects. You tap paintings on the wall to get into the guts of the app, the recordings made over the years at her poetry events featuring 30 performers including Juliet Stevenson, Jeremy Irons, Dan Stevens and Eileen Atkins reading work from Hart's beloved Eliot, Larkin, Frost, Plath and a dozen others. Tap on the picture frame entitled "My Poems" and you are given a template not only to write your own poems, but also to record them and then share both text and performance via email. Stuck for a word? There is an "inspire me" button that provides word clouds of poets' favourite vocabulary that might help you locate le mot juste. "Haunted", "Nervous", "Jagged" (Eliot); "Eloquent", "Ambition", "Faithless" (Byron); "Fanatic", "Desire", "Comfort" (Yeats).
There's no write-your-own element in Faber's Shakespeare's Sonnets (iPad, £9.99). But there is the most comprehensive, accessible, and sometimes revelatory set of tools to explore the 154 poems. Following on from last year's multimedia version of The Waste Land (iPad, £9.99), Sonnets features specially filmed performances by an even bigger cast of actors than Hart's – including Simon Russell Beale, Stephen Fry, David Tennant and Fiona Shaw – along with facsimiles of the original publications, commentary from the legendary Arden notes, and the thoughts of the poet Don Paterson and eminent Shakespearean scholars such as James Shapiro. The vast range of information and experience simply could not have been brought together in any other form, and as such this is a wonderful immersion in these sometimes mysterious poems.
So we're all agreed that this is the way forward for poetry, yes? Well … One of the most successful poetry apps launched last year was the iF Poems anthology (iPhone/iPad, £2.99), complete with readings from Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter. And it's big innovation for this year? Publication as a rather splendidly produced hardback book (Canongate, £20).