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

While walking in the woods of England’s rhyne-ridged Quantock Hills, where William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in the late 18th century, before either had published the poems that would make his name endure, the British author Adam Nicolson fell 25 feet down a collapsing riverbank. This was in Holford Glen, near Alfoxden Hall, a Somerset manse that Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, rented in 1797, a three-mile walk from the cottage where Coleridge lived with his wife, Sara, and their baby son, in the village of Nether Stowey.

The path had abruptly caved in under Nicolson’s feet, and as he shot down the sudden ravine, he was knocked out and lay briefly unconscious on a stream bed below. Coming to, he got up, and, though bleeding, walked dazedly (“climb’d with perilous toil,” Coleridge might have put it) until a stranger appeared and came to his aid, which the author took as “a Coleridgean blessing of comfort and connection.” Later, he would visit the grounds of Alfoxden with the artist Tom Hammick, and the two of them would cut sections from the broken limbs of the “ancient oaks, chestnuts, ash, beech and cherries” that lay “beneath the trees like the fragments of cast skeletons.” Hammick would hew and carve this resonant kindling into woodcuts to illustrate Nicolson’s book The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels,an exquisite exploration of the friendship of the two poets during the seasons that formed and shaped their craft.