Coleridge, the Wordsworths, and Their Year of Marvels: The Making of Poetry

Farrar. Jan. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9780374908492. $35. LIT
The fascinating “year of marvels” (1797) that brought forth a burst of creative energy equal to a literary big bang, and just about as inexplicable, introduced two seemingly minor poets (William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge) and some of the most indelible poetry ever produced. Nicolson, who has written on topics as varied as the creation of the King James Bible (God’s Secretaries), the importance of Homer (Why Homer Matters), and the growing extinction of sea birds (The Seabird’s Cry), crafts a wonderfully readable study of Romanticism’s two most famous figures, and the less renowned but equally essential Dorothy Wordsworth. For academics, this exhilarating work sheds intimate light on the development of Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads and Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner,” but does so with such insight and clarity that the daunting challenges of poetry evaporate like a morning mist.
VERDICT Nicolson’s gifts, both as a writer and a scholar, shine brightly, offering readers a thrilling glimpse into the marvelous work that is the “making of poetry.” Interspersed throughout are beautiful and simple woodcuts by artist Tom Hammick that may inspire readers to take up a pen and do a little making of their own. Highly recommended for all libraries.

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