Tag Archives: amazon echo

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“Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year.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.

My review of Poem Reader, an Alexa skill

This review is of Poem Reader, an Alexa skill which can be accessed using the Amazon Echo.

Amazon’s website describes Poem Reader as:
“Poem Reader is a random collection of poems for the whole family. Enable the skill to ask for today’s poem or the daily rhyme. Alexa will say the poem, not sing it. This skill is meant to help teach you the words to some popular poems and rhymes.”

Having used Poem Reader, it is, in my view more of a vehicle for having nursery rhymes recited than a means of accessing poetry more generally. Each time I asked Poem Reader for a poem and/or rhyme, it produced a rhyme more suited to young children than the family as a whole.

Amongst the rhymes voiced by Alexa was Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Little miss Muffet and Goosey Goosey Gander.

This skill does, perhaps possess the potential to amuse young children and those with an interest in nursery rhymes. However, from my use of Poem Reader, I believe that the description is somewhat misleading in that it implies a broad selection of rhymes/poems, when what is in fact included is largely (perhaps exclusively) a collection of nursery rhymes.

For anyone interested in checking out Poem Reader, it can be found here, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poem-Reader-Poems-for-Everyone/dp/B01LFXD2LY/.

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 the British Poetry Alexa skill

Being the owner of an Amazon Echo and a lover of poetry, I recently enabled the Alexa skill of the same name, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adam-Krell-British-Poetry/dp/B07B269592.

The British Poetry Alexa skill enables the user of an Echo to ask that a poem is read. There is also the opportunity to play a game to test your knowledge of British poetry.

Turning first to the read a poem feature, I found this rather hit and miss. For example on asking for a poem by the famous composer of humorous verse, Edward Lear, a poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt was voiced by Alexa. Just how Edward Lear can be equated with Sir Thomas Wyatt astounds me! I had more luck when requesting that a poem by Shakespeare, Wordsworth or William Blake be read. Had British Poetry not found the latter poets I would have disabled the British Poetry skill.

I previously favourably reviewed the My Poems Alexa skill, https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/10/31/my-review-of-my-poems-an-alexa-skill-enabling-the-amazon-echo-user-to-listen-to-poetry/. In that review I commend the fact that the poetry in My Poems is voiced by human actors. Unfortunately this is not the case with the British Poetry Alexa skill.

As regards the facility enabling the user of British Poetry to play a game, I enjoyed using this aspect of the app. The player is read the first few lines of a poem and then asked to say who the poet in question is. There are 3 options to choose from and I must confess to having crossed my fingers on several occasions and made a wild guess as to who the poet in question was!

Whilst (as mentioned above), the facility enabling the user to request that a particular poem is read is rather hit and miss, I did enjoy the game aspect of the British Poetry Alexa skill, and I shall return to play another day. However the My Poems app is, I believe of much more value to the lover of poetry.

Kevin

The Bell of Amherst – how best to enjoy the poetry of Emily Dickinson

I have long been an admirer of Emily Dickinson’s work, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Dickinson. My first recollection of having encountered her poetry was as a child whilst listening to Poetry Please! on BBC Radio 4. I remember being fascinated by a rendering of Dickinson’s fine poem “As I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me”, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47652/because-i-could-not-stop-for-death-479.

I frequently return to Emily’s work, and the bookcase in my bedroom contains 2 substancial braille volumes of her poetry. Given the pleasure I derive from her poetry, I was pleased to find that Amazon offers a free Alexa skill enabling owners of the Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Norton-The-Belle-Amherst/dp/B06XNM6GR9, and being an Echo owner I enabled The Bell of Amherst yesterday evening.

On opening The Bell of Amherst, the Echo user is asked whether they would like “The Bell” to read a poem. On answering “yes, a poem is voiced by Alexa and the app closes. If you wish to hear another poem its necessary to open The Bell again and request that Alexa read another Dickinson poem.

Whilst The Bell of Amherst provides those with access to an Amazon Echo with the opportunity to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, I find the robotic voice of Alexa distracting and would prefer that the poems are read by actors of the human kind, as is the case with the My Poems Alexa skill, which I reviewed on 31 October, https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/10/31/my-review-of-my-poems-an-alexa-skill-enabling-the-amazon-echo-user-to-listen-to-poetry/.

The fact that one has to re-open The Bell each time one wishes to hear a poem is also irritating. Again I would prefer that the Bell followed the same practice as My Poems whereby the user is given the opportunity to hear another poem, rather than the app shutting down on him/her once a single poem has been read.

In brief, I wouldn’t recommend The Bell of Amherst as a means of enjoying the verse of Emily Dickinson. I would suggest obtaining one of the many printed collections of her poetry as an alternative to The Bell of Amherst.

As an aside, I was delighted when, in response to a recent review of my Selected Poems, a reader of that review commented as follows:
“His poem about the grim reaper reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s “because I could not stop for death He kindly stopped for me.” Thanks for letting his read some of his poems.”
The poem to which the commenter refers is my poem entitled “Time”. You can find the review of The Selected Poems of K Morris (together with the above quoted comment) here, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/bookreview-poetry-the-selected-poems-of-k-morris/.

Kevin