Coleridge's poems employ the common techniques of poetry, but what seems most special about his poems is their romantic, often visionary, content and the richness of his imagery. Reading a Coleridge poem is to take an adventure into a mysterious setting--exotic, exquisitely beautiful, often strange, and always compelling. His poetic imagery inspires the imagination and creates unforgettable pictures in the reader's mind.
Coleridge poems, "Kubla Khan" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" are excellent examples of his poetic imagination and power of description. "Kubla Khan" is brief (54 lines); "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in contrast, is a quite lengthy dramatic narrative. Both of these works, however, take the reader to strange, exotic places that are captured in a series of images, rich in tone. Consider, for instance, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan":
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
The exotic, mysterious setting of Xanadu captures the imagination immediately, and it is then fixed in the mind's eye through the image of an ancient river running through caves too vast to be measured, falling finally into a "sunless sea," deep within the earth. Coleridge's "specialty" as a poet is perfectly demonstrated here in only five lines. The remainder of the poem creates other vivid, romantic images, as does "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a supernatural tale of men at sea who experience sights and sounds not to be forgotten.