Kirsty Morris Welsh talks to Eleanor Carter, director of the Poetry App.
Developed by The Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation and overseen by Lord Maurice Saatchi, The Poetry App allows users to read their favourite poetry collections alongside powerful narrations by notable figures such as Bob Geldof, Ralph Fiennes and Roger Moore. Already hailed one of the top educational apps within the iTunes store, The Poetry App also contains original essays from Lord Saatchi’s late wife Josephine Hart, which provide in-depth analysis and fascinating insight into the poets’ lives. These essays are designed to educate and, above all, inspire poetry lovers of all ages – a pursuit so clearly realised in the App’s growing audience of more than 250,000 users.
The Poetry App currently features poetry from sixteen great poets, including T.S Eliot, Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson
Where did the idea of creating the Poetry App originate from?
The Poetry App and The Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation are Josephine Hart’s legacies. Before she passed away in 2011, her mission was to bring poetry to the masses. She achieved this with her famous ‘Poetry Hours’ where she brought great actors reading great poetry to the people of London. To take advantage of modern technologies, the Foundation created the app to act as a library, holding all of Josephine’s magnificent poetry hours. The app also contains a place for you to write and record your own poetry, as well as the opportunity to read Josephine’s original essays describing each poet within our collection. The app was also built as an educational resource, inline with Josephine’s dedication to bringing poetry to life within schools.
How did you make decisions about which poets – and poetry – to include?
The poets and their poems were chosen by Josephine Hart. They include all the classic poets featured in her two books, ‘Catching Life by the Throat’ and ‘Words That Burn’, of which were sent to every UK school before her passing.
Are there any plans to expand the collection?
Whilst the app will continue to show all our latest Josephine Hart Poetry Hour readings, we are, however, in the stages of creating The Poetry Movement, an exciting new venture which looks to include as many upcoming poets and poems as possible. I’m looking to create a poetry hub, an interactive, poetic dream! So please do keep your eyes peeled…
The app is free, but is currently only available on iPads and iPhones. Given the strong educational ethos of the foundation, are there any plans to increase access to the resource for those who are perhaps less tech-savvy?
I go into schools and charities to work with young people. We do ‘poetry therapy’, without using the app and create our own works and share them with each other, to great effect. These sessions have proven very cathartic for the young people I work with and I am constantly looking for ways to expand our reach. On the tech side, The Poetry Movement is coming…
What has been the best thing about your involvement with the project?
The best thing about my involvement has to be seeing the amount of people I’ve managed to help through something that it so deeply embedded into my life. Poetry has been with me from a very young age and was a profound release for me. To be able to teach young people that they have this tool at their disposal is incredibly important to me. Mental health needs to be more widely discussed and addressed and through simply writing poetry, the young children I have worked with are set free and able to express themselves and their feelings. More often than not, the young people I see have no clue that it’s OK to write and discuss your feelings. The way my sessions work gives young people real confidence in themselves whilst providing them with the power of empathy for others. In terms of the technological side of things, I’ve been able to take a fantastic project and make it grow, which is very satisfying indeed!
The response has been great, we’ve reached over a quarter of a million downloads now which is great achievement for a poetry app. We’ve been able to expand our reach into schools across the world and it’s always great receiving an email from an Australian teacher praising the app! We mainly fit into two categories at the moment, education and lifestyle, but I’m pushing harder everyday to expand into everyone’s minds to create a poetry revolution!
From your experience, what is the contemporary public response to poetry?
People seem to love poetry, but a great deal of the time it’s not pushed in front of their noses enough for them to really consider it as a popular form and it kind of gets edged to the back of the mind. I also know a lot of young people who can’t stand the classic poets due to the archaic language… both of these points I’m looking to radically change through a new project we are working on called The Poetry Movement.
Who are your own favourite poets?
My favourite poet of all time is TS. Eliot. I think it’s because I used The Waste Land in my Master’s dissertation whilst at University. The imagery and language in that poem is so incredibly powerful, it really resonated with me. It’s great, if you haven’t read it, do! It’s tremendously dark and unexpected.
The Poetry App is available for iPad and iPhone; free download via the App Store: http://bit.ly/1yayvG9