When Macworld’s Reviews editor asked me to look at a poetry CD aimed at GCSE students, I wondered if he was dropping a hint about my writing. Yet, despite my scepticism, Poetry for All is actually quite good.
The title’s somewhat dull, interface offers several options, including a how-
to guide. However, the program is so easy to use, its instructions are unnecessary.
The program proper offers the choices Poetry in a Nutshell or The Character of Poetry. Both categories are simple, informative, and packed with hints about style – complete with spoken examples of poems to illustrate most points.
There were a few things that niggled, though. For starters, there are simply not enough poems – and some glaring omissions. There is, for example, no place for any verse by Keats or Shelley: the only romantic poet covered is Wordsworth. It does, though, have plenty of Shakespeare, which my teachers always insisted went down well with examiners. There are also some nice poems from writers such as Lewis Carroll and Robert Burns.
However, it makes no attempt to put the poems into any kind of historical, or cultural context – even the war poetry. I took my GCSEs quite a few years ago, but I remember needing some awareness of the background of the poems, and poets.
Also, the interface, with its pictures of autumnal trees, could put the most hyperactive teenager to sleep.
Yet despite these flaws, Poetry for All is worth its £20 price tag.
If you, or your children, are gearing up for GCSEs, Poetry for All will be a useful addition to any revision program. Unlike other GCSE revision aids I’ve seen, this will be of no use to those studying A levels or higher. This is a shame, because it wouldn’t take much tweaking to turn Poetry for All into a powerful research tool – even for undergraduates.