Common Sense Review
Updated April 2014

POETRY from The Poetry Foundation

Explore poems by mood and theme with this eclectic digital library
Common Sense Rating 3
  • When they open the app, users tap the SPIN button to generate a list of poems that overlap in mood and subject.
  • A range of old and new poems are represented; some include audio.
  • Scrolling lists at the top of the screen eventually come to rest, revealing a list of familiar and unfamiliar poems.
  • Users can save favorite poems for later review.
A focus on content over author makes this an engaging way to explore how different poets approach similar themes.
The poetry selection, although varied, is limited, and there’s little to do beyond browsing and reading.
Bottom Line
Although not a comprehensive reference tool, POETRY is a straightforward resource for discovering new poems and revisiting old favorites.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/nonprofit member
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

The SPIN function is really engaging, allowing kids to discover and explore new authors and unexpected works by theme and mood.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

It’s hard to use POETRY in an especially directed way, and it’s not possible to annotate or interact with the poems beyond saving them to a Favorites list.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Some nice capabilities for scaling text and enlarging the poems on-screen are provided, although text-to-speech features won't work in the app. Some poems do include an audio option.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers might ask students to browse the app, examine poems centering on a particular mood by both famous and not-so-famous authors, and then analyze the poems, concentrating on the literary devices the various authors use to illustrate the indicated mood. They might also have students use the app to browse and analyze all works by a particular author, like Shakespeare’s sonnets or Thoreau’s verse. 

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What's It Like?

POETRY from the Poetry Foundation is a collection of famous and not-so-famous poems that readers can browse and explore. Each time you open the app, a SPIN button appears. Tap the button and two rainbow-colored stripes scroll along the top of the screen, finally coming to rest on two words -- one indicating a mood (like gratitude or nostalgia) and another indicating a subject (like youth or nature). A list of poems matching that mood and subject then appears on the screen. Users select poems from the list to read. Students can save poems to a Favorites list, but poems aren't tagged with their corresponding mood or subject. It would be helpful if each poem’s tags (like "nature" or "nostalgia") were displayed within the poem itself. That way, users could search for a poem for an occasion by browsing favorite poems tagged “love” or “celebrations,” for example.

The appeal of POETRY is that it’s designed to inspire. The app's structure suggests poetry is written for every mood and every subject -- indeed, so wide an array of emotions and subjects is represented here that it’s easy to get lost in spinning the subject and mood bars. The emphasis on themes is powerfully equalizing: It’s just as likely a reader will encounter works by Emily Dickinson as by far less well-known modern poets. This is a great way to discover engaging new works and to concentrate on content over big-name authors.

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Is It Good For Learning?

POETRY drives home some key skills about reading literature that shouldn't be underestimated. By organizing poems by theme, the app truly emphasizes content over author: Poems of lesser-known poets stand side-by-side with works that have been beloved for centuries, allowing users to focus more closely on the content and quality of the writing. Under the guidance of a good teacher, students could discover insights about the importance in poetry of tone, diction, and other literary devices.

Unfortunately, the app's features are limited: There’s no ability for annotating texts, and opportunities for sharing are limited to a few options for sharing posts to social media. It would also be educationally useful if users could import or access poems not built into the app. POETRY provides a terrific range of authors including Dante, Shakespeare, Dryden, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar -- but with only a few poems included from giants like T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman, what’s missing is glaring. POETRY would be good for learning in the context of a well-articulated, well-structured poetry unit in the classroom, but it wouldn't be nearly as instructive or engaging without that guidance.

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