Path Through Wood

Sam Buchan-Watts

Traven T. Croves (Design) KOPA, Lithuania (Printer)




ISBN: 9781913513115


Publication date: 12 October 2021



Featured in The White Review‘s 2021 Books of the Year

Sam Buchan-Watts’ debut collection considers the capacity contemporary lyric poetry has to reflect social change. The many ethical dilemmas these poems enact listen in to the noise which society makes to distract itself – from carceral space to questions of asylum, masculinity and the boundaries of aesthetic play.

Described by the Guardian as a ‘sceptical, serious, versatile writer’, Buchan-Watts variously inhabits poetic form, exposing the interplay of sound, sense and desire. Returning repeatedly to the figure of a vulnerable boy approaching the thicket of adolescence, these are poems that are listening in when they’re not supposed to, distracted when they should be listening in, and finding secret listeners behind the arras. In this disquieting terrain we must hold ourselves to account for what we hear and what we make of what we hear.

‘Like a winged creature, this is a poet who can, at any moment, take flight, carrying the reader on his wing into high imagination. The air there is rarefied, but Buchan-Woods seems to breathe it as though it is his norm.’
Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine

‘It seems clear that whatever innocence the you-character had at the beginning of the book is now irrecoverable, but the loss is figured in language that defies easy paraphrase. This is the work this book does, showing us that the contemporary lyric can take many paths: a path through wood, yes, but also up the garden path, in sinuous and surprising ways.’
Erik Kennedy, Review 31

‘Sam Buchan-Watts’ debut collection is a remarkable reminder of the beauty of poetry and what poetry can be and should be.’
Andrew Taylor, Litter Magazine

‘This is poetry of stylish incisiveness and fascinating intelligence. Buchan-Watts has digested a wide range of disparate and incongruous influences and inspirations only to speak in his own unusually distinctive voice. The tempered exuberance of these poems – their new kind of storytelling, their strangely evocative coherence – is at once alluring and disarming. It is a very remarkable book.’ – Adam Phillips

‘This is a book poised between delicacy and ferocity, itinerary and distillation: like the cloud forms and studies evoked here, these poems are shifting, mutable, provocatively shimmering condensations. Refugees, prisons, questions of asylum; intimacies and boundaries; boyhood, masculinity, what it is to be “one with others”: all here, in ways rich, strange, sensuous, sonically gorgeous.’ – Maureen N. McClane

‘Contemplation and violence, and the purpose of art are among the complex themes in this formally inventive and persistently alert, allusive collection that had me enthralled. I’ve been following Sam’s work since the astonishing pamphlet with Faber & Faber, and this debut is just as impressive!’ – Daljit Nagra

The poet Robert Frost once said “I don’t like obscurity or obfuscation, but I do like dark sayings I must leave the clearing of to time”. Buchan-Watts takes a path less travelled through language and listening in this artful and compelling debut of labyrinthine repetition and reverberation, inviting the reader on a circular journey to find their own clearings.’ – Rachael Boast

‘One of the most playful and cerebral poets of our time, Sam Buchan-Watts in his debut Path Through Wood generates a nervous energy that reflects our age of anxiety about the inter-connectedness between existence and extinction, liberty and injustice, sense and nonsense, sound and sight, clouds and trees. His poems evaporate and condense like dreamworks that reveal the intimacy and puzzlement of listening, colouring, remembering and desiring. Fearlessly inventive and microscopically curious, he observes the physical and metaphysical worlds through “the threshold between inner and outer ear”, with wit, style and candour.’ – Kit Fan

‘Poets are people who have greater than usual difficulties with words, and the history of lyric poetry in English has been, among other things, a history of the willingness of poets to expose their difficulties. In Path Through Wood, Sam Buchan-Watts makes his wrestling with the question of how much of his own difficulties to expose apparent. Poems are reimagined and reconfigured before our eyes, the poet’s thoughts about the role of the artist are re-thought and reconfigured before our eyes. That which is made in this book is remade in this book–consequently, those who read this book are themselves remade. Isn’t that what we hope for when we read? Path Through Wood fulfils a promise rarely fulfilled.’ – Shane A. McCrae