Adam Nicolson’s The Making of Poetry is a glowingly—one might almost say throbbingly—detailed account ... Nicolson goes at it in sensorially saturated, theta-wave prose, sinking the reader into the aliveness of his descriptions ... By befriending both of these poets, by living and being with them in a remarkably sustained act of imaginative immersion, by allowing their ideas and their environment to mingle in him so profoundly...Nicolson...has opened the door.
Nicolson is himself a sublime and word-intoxicated nature writer ... This is a book of wonders. The 46 woodcuts by the artist Tom Hammick, vividly elemental studies of trees, skies, horses, pathways, homes and figures in landscapes, in glowing poster-paint colours, are a treat. Nicolson’s prose swoops and sings all over the landscape; his poets’ embeddings in nature and interconnections of thought are richly evoked, and his enjoyment of their (and his) journey into understanding is utterly infectious. Wordsworth and Coleridge, were they able to read his fabulous tribute in some Parnassian glade, would surely tip their hats to a kindred spirit.
... dazzling ... Before I read this book I was something of a Wordswortho-sceptic. But Nicolson is one of the most persuasive advocates of his genius I have read. The Making of Poetry brings the poetry to life, but also the countryside—Nicolson spent a lot of time living around Stowey to write this book and it has paid off brilliantly. He is helped along by Tom Hammick’s beautiful illustrations; charmingly some of the woodcuts are made with wood gathered from the garden at Alfoxden.
Nicolson...pays minute attention to physical textures and seasonal changes, weaving into his lyrical and rhapsodic descriptions of the natural world passages of biographical and critical analysis. There is also plentiful testimony from their contemporaries as to the suspiciously radical character of the Wordsworth-Coleridge circle ... one of the most striking features of this book: its numerous illustrations by the artist Tom Hammick. Many of these woodcuts were created using fallen timber from the park at Alfoxden where the Wordsworth siblings lived. Populated by blobby, generally faceless figures, Hammick’s brightly colored landscapes stand in an uncertain relationship to the text that surrounds them, and indeed to Wordsworth and Coleridge. They look rather like album covers from the 1970s or 80s. In a book that partly celebrates inaptness and mismatching, perhaps such incongruity is fitting.
Nicolson, whose method is 'to lower myself into the pool of their minds,' paints a memorable triptych of the two poets and their Dolly [Dorothy Wordsworth] ... Despite its avowed revisionism, and its references to the rural poor and the Tory repression, The Making of Poetry buys into an idea inspired by the greenwood of merrie England, in which the free-born Englishman, liberated from court and cloister, finds deepest self-expression in the forest under the canopy of the heavens ... the contentious question that nags at the heart of the poets’ bromance...What, precisely, was Dorothy’s contribution ... Nicolson has hardly more interest in the fashionable 'Matilda effect' than Wordsworth or Coleridge ... The deepest mysteries of this 'marvellous year' remain happily unplumbed, if much more famous.
... [a] spellbinding recreation of the making of Romantic poetry ... The Making of Poetry is an excitingly new kind of literary book, one which artfully combines illustrations (the bright and powerful woodcut images by Tom Hammick offer haunting correspondences to Nicolson’s imaginative prose) with a naturalist’s approach to biography. The result...enables the writer to evoke as never before the regular pilgrimages of Wordsworth, Coleridge and their companions. Nicolson’s marvellously intuitive writing brings the poets and their friends...springing over woodland fences and down into our lives. Here is no handshake across time (Richard Holmes’s description of his own biographical art), but a lived experience ... Occasionally, Nicolson’s delectable prose pudding tastes over-egged ... Such infelicities offer the only irritations in one of the most imaginative and luminously intelligent books about poetry I have read. Hammick’s images add a quiet enchantment that is all their own.