3 projects to enhance the experience of reading or writing poems

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takomabibelot, CC BY-SA 2.0

April is National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada. During April, individuals and institutions take part by reading, sharing, and writing poetry. You can find National Poetry Month events at your local library, your local bookstore, and at many other places. To give National Poetry Month an open source spin, in this article I'll share three open source projects for reading or writing poetry. From reading classical Greek and Roman poetry, to exploring the corpus of Persian poetry, to crafting poems of your own with a handy Android application, these projects take advantage of the creativity of open source to enhance the experience of reading or writing poems.

Perseus Digital Library

Perseus Digital Library screenshot

The Perseus Digital Library is a web-based repository of poetry and prose from the ancient world up to more contemporary times. A project of Tufts University, the site's key collection is focused on Greek and Latin texts and contains many poems from the ancient world in their original languages and in English. Other collections on the site include more contemporary material, including works from the Renaissance and from 19th century America. You will find works like Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Beowulf, Shakespeare's Sonnets, and many other major poetic works from throughout the ages.

Studying texts, especially ancient texts in non-English languages, is a task made easier done with a decent set of tools. The Perseus Digital Library provides these tools, enabling users to dig deeper into texts and develop a greater understanding of a text and its relationship to other items in the Perseus collection. For example, for texts in Latin, Greek, and Arabic, the site supports "linking inflected word forms to the dictionary entries from which they're derived" and can provide a morphological analysis of words giving the reader information about the case and gender of a word. The Perseus Digital Library takes advantage of its medium to provide a superior reading/studying experience than a traditional book.

Interested users can download the full collection of the site's text in TEI-compliant XML format. The texts are licensed under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 License. The source code for Perseus' Java Hopper is also available for download and is released under a Mozilla Public License. Downloading and installing the code and xml texts provide the opportunity to go beyond the already powerful features of the Perseus site. By having access to the source code, users can further enhance the code and add new and interesting features, should they choose to do so.

Saaghar Persian poetry software

Saaghar Persian poetry software screenshot

Saaghar is a specialized application for reading Persian poetry in the Persian language; the included texts and the user interface for the program are all in Persian. Admittedly, this makes it a very niche program, but it is well designed and does include a large selection of Persian poetry. The included texts are from ganjoor.net and include classical poets, like Ferdowsi and Rumi, and more modern poets, such as The Ayatollah Khomeini and Forough Farrokhzad.

Saaghar has an excellent user interface and provides a good selection of tools for working with the included texts. Users can browse the collection by clicking on nice portraits of the various poets, or they can use the search feature. Poems and poet biographies can be printed or exported to HTML, PDF, or TeX files. Available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X, Saaghar is licensed under version 3 of the GPL.

Poet Assistant Android app

Poet Assistant Android app screenshot

Read enough poetry and you might just want to try your hand at writing your own poems. Poet Assistant is an Android app designed to help write poetry. It provides access to a dictionary, thesaurus, and a rhyming dictionary—and all of these are available without network access, so they are still usable when working with WIFI and cellular connections disabled to avoid distractions. Though there is an option in the search results to lookup a search term on the internet using the system's default browser.

When looking up a word or phrase, each search result provides a quick link to look up that entry in any of the other dictionaries. For example, look up the word "code" in the rhyming dictionary and "abode" pops up as the first search result and has links to look up "abode" in the rhyming dictionary, thesaurus, and regular dictionary. The behavior is much the same for searches in the other tools. In addition, when searching the rhyming dictionary results can be filtered to only include items that are synonyms of the word used as a filter, and thesaurus searches can be filtered to only return words that rhyme with a certain word.

For inspiration, Poet Assistant has a "word of the day" feature, which pops up as a notification. Poet assistant also provides a handy feature for reciting your poem back to you using Android's text-to-speech engine. The text-to-speech option can also pronounce individual words in the dictionary, thesaurus, or rhyming dictionary, but only for the word being search for, not the other words found as a result of the search. Search for "code" and Poet Assistant can say "code," but to have the option for it to say "abode" or one of the other entries, that word has to be looked up in the dictionary, thesaurus, or rhyming dictionary.

Poet Assistant is open source with a GPL Version 3.0 license and is available from the F-Droid repository and the Google Play Store.

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