Praise and Poems
Norman Buller’s Pictures of the Fleeting World signals new departures into more crystallised lyricism, with oriental tints. The double section ‘Studies and Variations in the Japanese’ pays homage to the 18th and 19th century Japanese exponents of Ukiyo-e (wood block prints) – Utagawa Hiroshige, Utagawa Kunisada et al – in a series of exquisite miniatures.
Tributes to past artists explore the psychical landscapes of Rembrandt, Turner and Matisse through appreciation of some of their most expressive paintings: ‘she is formed deep from/ his cave of desiring, lingering odalisque/ ghost in the mind’ (‘Matisse and the Dancer’). This sensibility ripens in the sublime ‘Edgar Degas’, depicting the ‘painter as eunuch’, while his studies of bathing women frame figurative peepholes which compromise the viewer as voyeur.
There is a Munchian quality to elliptical portraits such as ‘Daisy in the Garden’, and the Picasso-themed ‘Weeping Woman’: ‘a handkerchief grinds in her frenzied teeth. Her face is collapsing’. Aphorisms on ephemerality are couched in Audenesque meditations: ‘memories outlive graves yet die with their possessor’ (‘A Garden Remembered’).
Buller’s metier dovetails between themes of mortality and vitality; even virility, as in the Lawrentian ‘Nevermore’: ‘Observe the motif, labia wide, and see the risen phallus slide/ between those ever-open jaws’. In ‘The Cave’, a rare self-portrait from a poet who normally shies from introspection, Buller triumphs with a trope which might be an epitaph for the poetic species as a whole: ‘‘I write for myself and the hypothetical other’’. Pictures of the Fleeting World is as its title suggests: a gallery of richly captured moments.