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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for The Costa Biography Award 2019 

Wordsworth and Coleridge as you’ve never seen them before in this new audiobook by Adam Nicolson, brimming with poetry, art and nature writing. Proof that poetry can change the world. 

It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and ‘Kubla Khan’ as well as Coleridge’s unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth’s revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of ‘Tintern Abbey’, his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding. 

Best-selling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and an ever-shifting cast of friends, dependents and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. 

To a degree never shown before, The Making of Poetry explores the idea that these poems came from this place, and that only by experiencing the physical circumstances of the year, in all weathers and all seasons, at night and at dawn, in sunlit reverie and moonlit walks, can the genesis of the poetry start to be understood. 

What emerges is a portrait of these great figures as young people, troubled, ambitious, dreaming of a vision of wholeness, knowing they had greatness in them but still in urgent search of the paths towards it. 

The poetry they made was not from settled conclusions but from the adventure on which they were all embarked, seeing what they wrote as a way of stripping away all the dead matter, exfoliating consciousness, penetrating its depths and so changing the world. Poetry for them was not an ornament for civilisation but a challenge to it, a means of remaking the world.

©2019 Adam Nicolson (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"An exquisitely written paean to ten ocean-going birds...make no mistake, this is a clever book...a call to arms against the loss of this crucial part of our rich natural heritage." (Books of the Year, The Times)

"An extraordinary book, nothing less than a masterpiece." (Financial Times)

"Gorgeous book, a poetic soaring exploration of 10 species of seabirds.... Generous and beautifully composed." (Observer)

What listeners say about The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels

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  • Mr. P. G. Harris
  • 23-10-2019

Immersion achieved

Nicholson successfully takes you into the places inhabited and known to Coleridge, Wordsworth and others. He helps you understand the character, emotions and driving force behind their poems, in particular the landscape that shaped them. The only book I know of about the Romantic Poets that achieves this. You become immersed in their world and don't want to leave! A unique and wonderful experience... thank you Adam.

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  • Linton Edwards
  • 06-11-2020

Just terrific

I love Samuel Taylor Coleridge and always have. So this book, which gives STC a sympathetic hearing and enables you to see how endearing he was, and what a genius, was always going to be a good listen. But it was better than that. You can really live the year in the Quantocks. The lives of STC and his friends, his wife Sarah, baby Hartley, are portrayed in the setting of the natural world. Their night walks and long conversations evolve over the year, and you can see how STC influence the stodgy-minded Wordsworth, allowing him insight into the way things are, and providing the basis for his work in Lyrical Ballads. Also you can see how funny STC was. His self deprecating style is so charming. To live through - to be talked through- his writing of Kublai Kahn, The Ancient Mariner, and the great Conversation poems is to be immersed in a brilliant world. What a man. He never stopped talking. He must have been impossible to live with. So brilliant. To go off on a walking tour when baby Berkely arrived, when the infant was only 2 days old - unforgiveable. But his writing about Hartley shows what an engaged and loving father he was. No central heating, social security, biros, cars, convenience food, paper, phones - how did it all work - yet it all seems so straightforward and wholesome. The downsides, illness and lack of communication and social conventions, all had their wearing effects. But the poetry shines through. This book shows how it was done.
The narrator is excellent. He subtly changes his voice when reading about different characters, rather than 'putting on an accent' - so powerful and engaging.
I wish there was another book that follows on from this one, I am so sorry to have finished it. Enchanting really.

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  • DisplayName
  • 18-04-2020

Mixed but I would recommend it

Lovely to get a glimpse of WW, DW and STC as people in relationship to one another. Lots of sources. Best in the analysis of WW’s emerging trust in his own purpose. But it seemed to me the writer is sometimes astray in his sense of the poems.

Similarly with the reader. The least satisfying part of his performance is his reading of the poems.

Read it for the glimpse of the three as people and an introduction to the unsettled suspicious mood of England at that time. And to discover you’ve been mispronouncing Hazlitt all your life!

2 people found this helpful

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