… in the case of Shelley, I have to wonder if his life didn’t ultimately affect the quality of his work. This is not an idea that would have occurred to me when I first read this poet. In college and even in graduate school, one tended to take the word of one’s professors on faith and to find value where they told us it existed. But returning to Shelley now, I wonder if he’s as good as he’s cracked up to be. His shorter poems such as “Ode to the West Wind” and “Ozymandius” definitely carry some punch (the latter, an apt, if overblown, statement about how all greatness eventually falls to dust). But "Alastor," "Prometheus Unbound," and the unfinished "Triumph of Life" — I’m not so sure.
I'm with Paula on this. To be honest, I've never been much of a fan. A large chunk is Shelley is rhetoric, not poetry. He was more in love with ideas than with the stuff of life. Hence the profusion of abstract nouns Paula notes. As for his character, while you do not have to be a nice person to write good poetry, good poetry does not excuse not being a nice person. Shelley was not a nice person.