Parallel lines

25th May 2001 at 01:00
INTRODUCING WORDSWORTH AND COLERIDGE. By Nancy Martin and Catherine Kay. pound;16.99 (plus pound;2.90 p amp; p). The Wordsworth Trust Grasmere, Cumbria LA22 9SH

This exemplary pack, prepared for use in the classroom at key stages 3 and 4, is described by its compilers as a fully-illustrated, clear and accessible way into classic poetry and is exactly that. It consists of six A4 booklets in an envelope folder; background and biography of the two poets in one volume that points up the parallels in their careers along with the intimacy and difficulties of their relationship, a small but judicious selection of poems by each of them, separate booklets Exploring the Poems, and an edited version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner that links verse highlights with an efficient narrative commentary and reproduces - in the margin, reduced, but with admirable clarity - 16 of Gustav Dore's great engravings.

Overall, the quality of design and imaginative artwork ensure that even a merely adequate photocopier should be abe to produce invaluable material for wall display, and the texts of the poems themselves are printed without clutter in an attractive typeface.

Particularly impressive are the various ways in which an attempt is made to direct attention to what is distinctive in the poets' use of language, with patterns and word clusters brought into focus. There are even several cleverly annotated cartoons studded with phrases from the poems they are designed to illustrate. These could so easily have trivialised their sources but, as an amusingly graphic kind of mental doodling, they are surprisingly successful in pointing up connections between thought and imagery within the poems themselves.

The compilers express their hope that although the pack is aimed at the education market it will enable all readers, whatever their age, to respond to the poetry it celebrates. Their hope is certainly justified by the quality of their enterprise.

John Mole is a visiting poet at the University of Hertfordshire


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