Keep Taking the Poetry Tablets
First things first, wasn't Kate Tempest fantastic on BBC2 last night with her new work Let Them Eat Chaos? I knew of Kate Tempest but I had not had the chance to hear her or read any of her work. I found the performance breath taking! It was a fantastic opener for what BBC plans will be a 2-year project of live performances from the world of live theatre, dance, comedy and spoken word. As I mentioned last week, I am currently doing a political poetry course with Live Canon and if I manage to get remotely close to Kate Tempest's political pronouncements then I'd be over the moon! I am also in awe of her memory, over 45 minutes with no printout :)
Now onto the techy part. When I attend a local creative writing group I enjoy listening to other people's responses to the previous week's prompt, and I bring in my response for somebody else to read out for me. Not being able to read a print out of my jottings is a nuisance but I generally don't try and commit a poem to memory at the draft stage. Once the current week's prompt has been announced the group has 10 minutes to come up with outline ideas and thoughts about how to respond. I do not write particularly well on paper now that I cannot see the letters so I do not attempt to write anything down, but I will talk about what kind of idea I'm likely to go with.
I am very excited about a week-long residential Arvon course that I will be attending in November with tutors Daljit Nagra and Julia Copus at the Lumb Bank centre in Hebden Bridge. When I realised how frighteningly weighty my laptop is I figured I needed something smaller and substantially less heavy. So I have been shopping for a tablet device specifically for the purpose of poetry; I hope the course proves as challenging as a game of World of Warcraft, but I didn't need a tablet capable of running the game with maximum gore settings and surround sound.
Whilst I expect my fellow Arvon attendees to have chunky notebooks, maybe some themed with inspirational writing quotes from famous poets, I was seeking an electronic means of typing my ideas, and that would be able to read any handouts aloud for me. So my priorities were for a Windows operating system so I could use my regular screen reading software, NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) and with at least one full size USB port so I could use my separate full size keyboard, because I don't find on-screen input keyboards very easy to use (If I was 10 minutes away from coming to visit you it would take me 15 minutes to send you a text message to let you know).
I found a couple of suitable spec tablets, the Windows Surface Pro and a couple of Samsung options, but costing over £1000 I figured that was a heck of an expensive pad of paper. A bit more investigation with Google found a Chinese tablet made by Chuwi, which my screen reader pronounces "chewie" (like a penny sweet or a hairy Wookiee). The model I went with is the HI10 and there is a similarly priced and similar spec model called the VI10. It is not easy to find in high street stores, but on my old friend eBay it is available brand new, for in the region of £140-170 from UK sellers. It has Windows 10 installed, it has 64Gb hard disk, 4Gb memory, 2 USB ports and then the usual standard features of a tablet device. I've had it for almost a week and here is my initial assessment:
I have installed the main programs I'll be using on it — my screen reader is set up as I like it (though I need to copy my custom dictionary over from my laptop, because that has phonetic pronunciations that I've typed in over the years, so that it knows how to pronounce words like Abergavenny and Cilfynydd). I've got Winamp installed for mp3 files, Firefox for web browsing. I've connected it to my DropBox account where I have any poetry that I've ever written which I would hate for a disk failure to occur and wipe out my 25 year poetry output!
The tablet has Word mobile on it but I am not liking that very much — it doesn't seem to identify spelling mistakes which would be the main reason I used Word on a tablet — any other tablet users know if Word Mobile is all that can be installed on a tablet or can a full desktop version of Word be installed? I'm probably just going to stick to using Notepad.
I've made the decision not to add a Twitter client, because if I'm out and about and using the tablet then I probably have more important things to be doing than reading Twitter!
The USB ports are good, one is USB 3 and the other is USB 2. I attach my keyboard to the slower USB 2 one which leaves the 3 available, which I'll most likely use for an external hard disk.
My only minor gripe at this stage is the speakers. I was only expecting the tinny sound of low-quality laptop / tablet devices, but there is significant breakup in the sound at volumes over 50 percent; the volume is certainly not thunderous from these little speakers. I'm not unduly disturbed by this and will use a separate little speaker or headphones in class, which should be tolerable.
So my first impressions verdict: A solid buy. It does exactly what you want a tablet to do, and it has a few features that make it a particularly good choice at a good price.
Remember, it does not matter how you are reading or how you are writing, all that matters is that you are consuming and absorbing books, and you are releasing your poetry into the atmosphere :)
#KateTempest #BBC2 #Arvon #DaljitNagra #JuliaCopus #Chuwi #Tablets #NVDA #ScreenReaders