Tag Archives: alexa skills

My review of 2 Alexa skills: Poe Reader and Poem A Day

Below you will find my reviews of Poem A Day (both the web based version and the Alexa Skill), and a review of Poe Reader, an Alexa skill enabling the user of an Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Edgar Alan Poe.

I was pleased to come across Poem A Day from the Academy of American Poets. On it’s website the Academy describes Poem a Day as follows:

“Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is distributed via email, web, and social media to 500,000+ readers free of charge. The series highlights classic poems on weekends, and weekday poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary and audio by the poets. The series’ weekdays are curated by twelve poets from across the country who have wide-ranging expertise and editorial perspectives. Poet Sherwin Bitsui serves as guest editor for November 2019”, (see https://poets.org/poem-a-day).

As the owner of an Amazon Echo, I thought that I would give the Alexa skill of the same name a try, particularly as the information on Amazon’s website indicates that the poems are voiced by the poets themselves, (see https://www.amazon.com/Academy-of-American-Poets-Poem-a-Day/dp/B07HRGCGH6). However, on asking Alexa to launch Poem A Day, a message is generated stating that the Echo is unable to launch the skill. Having tried to use the Poem A Day skill (without success) for several days, I am unable to recommend the Alexa version of this product. I can, however recommend the web based alternative, available on the Academy of American Poets website.

Being a fan of Edgar Alan Poe’s work, I also tried the Poe Reader, which is available as an Alexa skill from Amazon, (see https://www.amazon.com/worldengine-Edgar-Allan-Poe-Reader/dp/B077KJR5ZP). The Poe Reader enables the user of an Echo to request a random Poe poem or, alternatively a specific poem can be requested.

Whilst I was successful in being able to listen to several Poe poems, including A Dream Within a Dream, on attempting to enjoy The Raven Alexa stopped speaking only a few lines into the poem. This happened several times (and not just with The Raven), which indicates to me that there is a problem with Poe reader.

In conclusion, I would recommend the web based version of Poem A Day from the Academy of American Poets (but not the Alexa skill of the same name). As for Poe Reader, my readers may wish to try out this skill, however, from my experience it is likely to cease voicing mid sentence.

Sometimes Brevity is King

I have long been an admirer of those who can express themselves well in short verse. Consequently I was interested when I came across 7 Poems, an Alexa skill, which provides the user of an Amazon Echo with access to 7 poems from the book Text Messages, by Andrew Wilson, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Studio-for-Co-operation-Seven-Poems/dp/B07GZT6DVK/.

I was impressed with the poems showcased in the above free Alexa skill, and will be purchasing Wilson’s book Text Messages.

My love for the short poem began, I believe with my reading of Ernest Dowson’s “They are not long, the weeping and the laughter” which runs thus:

“They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream”.

Life is indeed brief and the brevity of Dowson’s poem serves to underline this fact. It is, of course true that there have been many fine long poems written on the subject of mortality. Take, for example Keats “Ode to a Nightingale” which is, incidentally one of my favourite poems.

Keats produced a wonderful meditation on mortality, suicide and beauty and his ode does, to my mind contain not one extraneous word. I have, however read other poems where I have thought that (had the poem been briefer) it would have been more impactful. Dowson’s “They are not Long” certainly does not suffer from being long winded, and his verses undoubtedly pack a powerful punch.

Many (but by no means all) of my own poems are brief in nature. Take, for example my poem Summer, which runs as follows:

“Summer unlocks
Youthful passion.
Now ’tis the fashion
For short frocks
And tiny socks.
Some girls barefoot go;
For, of a summer’s day,
They little know
That winter snow
Is on its way.”

Only my readers can say whether the above poem conveys (in 10 lines) what the poet wished to convey, and, if so whether his message is well expressed in so brief a space. As the poet, I believe that I said all I wished to convey in 10 lines. Had I said more I would have been guilty of the sin of waffle, and heaven preserve us from wafflers! But, in the final analysis its all in the interpretation of my readers.

In conclusion, there is, I believe a place for both short and longer poems. If something can be expressed briefly and with impact then there is, in my opinion no point in spinning out the word count. Indeed doing so will merely weary the reader and turn an otherwise potentially good (even great) poem, into a mediocre or poor piece of writing. Some things are, however better expressed at greater length, as is the case with Keats “Nightingale”.

My poem Summer can be found in my Selected Poems, which is available in paperback and e-book format from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WW8WXPP/ (for the UK, and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW8WXPP/. (for the US and elsewhere).

My review of Go Emily, an Alexa skill enabling the user of an Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson

On 1 November, I reviewed The Bell of Amherst, an Alexa skill which enables the user of an Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/11/01/the-bell-of-amherst-how-best-to-enjoy-the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson/. As you will see from that review, I was disappointed with The Bell. Consequently I enabled Go Emily which, as with The Bell, allows users of the Echo to listen to Dickinson’s work, https://www.amazon.com/Appbly-com-Go-Emily/dp/B01LX3SF9I.

There is, so far as I can ascertain from having used both Go Emily and The Bell of Amherst, no difference between the 2 skills, Indeed, if I where a smoker (which I am not), I would say that one could not put a cigarette paper between them! As with The Bell, Go Emily uses Alexa’s voice to recite Dickinson’s poetry. In addition, both skills close immediately after a single poem has been read, there being no facility for the user to request that a further poem is recited.

Both Go Emily and The Bell of Amherst could be improved by allowing the user to request that a further poem be read, or to ask that a named poem of Dickinson’s be recited.

As with The Bell of Amherst, I am not a huge fan of the Go Emily skill, and, in my view, anyone wishing to enjoy the poetry of Emily Dickinson would be better served by reading one of the collections out there.

Kevin

My review of “My Poems”, an Alexa Skill enabling the Amazon Echo user to listen to poetry

This review is of My Poems, an Alexa skill which can be enabled for the Amazon Echo, enabling the user to listen to poems, and “pin” their favourites for future easy access.

Back in 2018, I purchased and reviewed the Amazon Echo (Second Generation), https://kmorrispoet.com/2018/09/25/my-review-of-the-amazon-echo-second-generation/. The Echo is a versatile device controled by voice, enabling the user to do many things, including listen to music, enjoy audio books from audible.com and check the meaning of words/have them spelt. In addition the user can enable various skills, including the free My Poems app, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opearlo-My-Poems/dp/B071D96QLW.

As mentioned at the start of this review, My Poems enables the user of an Amazon Echo to listen to poems and pin their Favourites for future easy access. In addition its possible to have a poem repeated and to skip through the poems.

I downloaded My Poems yesterday evening (30 October 2019), and I am enjoying using the app. All of the poems are recorded by actors and thus far I have been impressed by the quality of the readings.

Each time the user hears a poem Alexa gives him/her the opportunity to have it “pinned” to “Favourites”, or to hear another poem. I have already pinned a number of poems and have returned to listen back to them.

On the Amazon website it states that users can request that their poem is added to the My Poems. Whilst it is not entirely clear what this means, I suspect that the user can request that a poem composed by them be added to My Poems, rather than it being a means whereby he/she can ask that a poem (not yet included by, say Shakespeare) be added.

My Poems is an enjoyable way of listening to poetry, and I would recommend to anyone who has access to an Amazon Echo to give it a try.

Kevin