Monday, 17 December 2012

Lovely Christmas idea of the day: if you are stuck for presents, why not give the gift of poetry?

A long time ago, and very far away, an old friend of mine told me she was embarking on a new venture. She was inventing an app.

Apart from the fact that I think 'app' one of the ugliest neologisms in the English language, I was frantically impressed. I am always very impressed by people who know how to do things that I cannot fathom. It is why I love the dry stone-wallers.

She and another old friend from university days got together and came up with an idea so lovely in its simplicity, so William Morris-ish in its beauty and utility, that I collected together all my hats and took them off.

It was a poetry app, for children. There were many carefully selected, mostly quite short poems, for every age group and every occasion. Some of them were read aloud by good actors, like Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham-Carter, so you could press a button on your device and hear them reading The Charge of the Light Brigade, or The Owl and the Pussycat.

So overcome was I by the cleverness of this that I swore up and down that I should write of nothing else on the blog. 'I don't have very many readers,' I said, 'but they are very, very high quality.' The thing would go viral, and I would have helped, and everything in the garden would be blindingly lovely.

Then, I kept forgetting. Once I had forgotten a few times, the resulting angst was so crushing that I could not write a word about the thing, even though I used it and loved it. It turned out that although it was compiled for children, all the poems were perfectly delightful for grown-ups too.

Very few apps have much pleasing application, apart from a fleeting novelty value. If you go and look at the list of apps in the iStore, you may experience a dull sinking of the heart, they are so specious. This one was so good that it took off with no help from me, and was a roaring success. So much so, that it was followed by a book.

Finally, because it is Christmas, I get around to mentioning it. The book is If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility; a very good title for a very good book. It is a perfect present for someone you love:

You can buy it on Amazon here

Details of the app and some sample readings are on the If website, here.

Not that many people create something which is good and simple and true and not cynical or driven by hype, but just gives pleasure. I'm always really admiring of those who do. 

And as if all this goodness were not enough, they give 10% of their sales to Save the Children. Which, you must admit, is very, very Christmassy indeed.

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