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  • James Stewart

Tom Hammick & The Making of Poetry

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Tom Hammick collaborated with the writer Adam Nicolson on a book, "The Making of Poetry". Inspired by Nicolson's text and the two poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Tom Hammick has created a new series of original woodcuts to illustrate this very special publication.

Created from wood blocks sourced from the Quantock Hills, the woodcuts are now available to purchase, please contact the gallery for more details of availability and prices or go to our Shop to view all the available Tom Hammick prints on hand.

7 April 2020 will be the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth's birth and this book by Bestselling 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, dependants and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset.

Brimming with poetry, art and nature writing, this is Wordsworth and Coleridge as you’ve never seen them before: 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. 

1798 was a year of change, of widespread upheaval. A bloody unsettled Europe stretched to the east, the fiery aftermath of the French Revolution. The clicking and swooping of the guillotine could still be heard, albeit in memory, even across the Channel. And even in the quiet part of England where Wordsworth lived, there were fears of a French invasion. Only a few months earlier, there had been reports that the Dutch Fleet was ready to bring a French invasion force to England. Into this time of unrest and suspicion come Dorothy and William Wordsworth, a young man and woman, with strong ties to France. They had come to Somerset for this one year and were living in a beautiful house called Alfoxden Park near the Quantock hills. 

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 troubled nature of our connections to each other and to the natural world have long been Hammick's subjects.  

'Fallen Ash' woodcut.

Here he finds in moonlit walks on wooded hills and the dream visions of poets in reverie a visual vocabulary that reconnects us to that foundational moment of modern sensibility.

The life he depicts is full of sorrow and possibility, urgent with desire for a kind of understanding that seems permanently out of reach.  With these powerful and haunting images, he has returned to source.

"There is a grandeur in the beating of the heart" Wordsworth wrote, and that is Hammick's subject here too.

The Evening Standard review mentions Tom Hammick's “bold blocks of colour & form” illustrations for the Making of Poetry.

The Spectator Review mentions the “exquisite woodcuts” by Tom Hammick each of them made with wood foraged from Alfoxden. “Hammick’s art makes this one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen.

The Guardian review compares “prodigiously gifted & colourful artist” Tom Hammick to Coleridge & Nicolson as Wordsworth, “biographer & artist in full flow”.

The print 'Withycombe Dream' refers to the farmhouse Coleridge stayed at Withycombe Farm not far from Culborne Church. In the autumn of 1797 Coleridge was in low spirits, unwell and penniless. He was receiving little money from his writing and felt that he may have to become a Unitarian minister, which he felt a 'less evil than starving'.

In October he took a 'day or two' off to find the isolation he needed to finish his "Osorio". He walked to the Porlock area, home of his maternal ancestors and an area he knew well. He followed a difficult zig-zag path from Porlock Weir to Culbone, climbing through woodland which abounded in 'wild deer, foxes, badgers and martin cats'. There were abundant whortleberries beneath the trees and the sound of the waves breaking below and distant views across to Wales filled him with 'pleasure and astonishment'. Culbone was considered one of Somerset's holy places and was then already frequented by seekers of the romantic. 

Click here to find out more about Coleridge at Exmoor, from the Exmoor National Park.

'Blessings in the Air' comes from a line in Wordworth's 1798 poem "To My Sister":

There is a blessing in the air, Which seems a sense of joy to yield To the bare trees, and mountains bare, And grass in the green field.

From Eavan Boland on William Wordsworth - click here for more.


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