Norman Buller

Powder on the Wind (2011)


The language is absolutely exact and economical… the characteristic Buller effect of the shorter last line – which I remember imitating while at Cambridge. Wish I could write like that.
Thom Gunn

Norman Buller’s is a thoughtful poetry tempered by art….a craftsmanly, brilliantly sculptured poetry with at times a magesterial tone that is never overbearing because it is pared to the point of pure simplicity.
William Oxley, Acumen

…the author is a mature and gifted poet whose work reflects intelligently and often wittily upon the interactions between human beings and the social and physical forces which condition them……These are the poems of a widely read and cultured man… …Two sections headed ‘What the Preacher Said’ display a reflective gift. While ‘A Professor Asleep’ may be a piece of compassionate observation worthy of Graves himself, these ‘preacher’ poems with their incisive language and varieties of religious imagery go deeper still. Norman Buller’s poetry is good for many readings.
Review of Norman Buller’s Powder on the Wind in St
Catharine’s Magazine (Cambridge) by Glen Cavaliero

Here is a richness born of deliberate, mature reflection.
Kevin Saving, the Recusant

Kevin Saving, the Recusant

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906742-34-8 Category:

Praise and Poems

Powder on the Wind — adumbrated by the critically praised Sleeping with Icons (2007) and Fools and Mirrors (2010) — is a thornily haunting, icily penetrating collection that casts its own distinct shadow. Buller’s authorial humility is as ever marked by a fascination with other creators’ lives — here, Gwen John, Elizabeth Bishop, Walter Sickert among them — paid tribute in figurative miniatures. These poetic portraits take shape either in appreciations of — often unmanageable — talents, or empathetic projections, as if tapping the subjects’ after-thoughts on the spiritualist
table of the page. Buller is also visited by three Russian poet-spectres: Boris Pasternak — ‘Take my life from the shelf and blow its dust away;…/ I’ll make the blank page flower if I must…’; Marina Tsvetaeva, spitting metaphors at past slanders — ‘…that I’m a harlot sprawling/ in a drunken Russia’s arms’; and Osip Mandelshtam, who feels as if ‘…rolled on [the] tongue’ of the Red Tsar ‘like a berry’. Buller’s absorption in the blasted tundra of Russian literature sets a bitingly wintry
tone. Mortality’s inescapability is sprinkled like permafrost throughout, coldly indefatigable as the mind’s tireless instinct to negotiate terms. Buller’s antidote is the holiness of the moment’s insight, defined entirely by time — the explicit territory of poetry, and love: ‘Here soul and spirit play/ the roles our bodies fix’. This Lawrentian naturalism runs through Buller’s thought and technique, but is lit by embers of metaphysical tension. A half-reconciled agnosticism cannot ignore the wires of religious legerdemain, nor shrink from imponderables, such as the possibility of an afterlife utterly unrelated to our earthly one: ‘Suppose our souls incline/ to worlds beyond this place;/ there love will play by different/ rules from ours’. Thumping down to earth are more mud-splattered portraits, of Robert Graves‘ ‘neurasthenic terror’, and Isaac Rosenberg, ambered in sublime aphorism ‘wearing/ poverty as his albatross’. Powder on the Wind firmly establishes Buller as a forceful lyric voice; one in the timbre of poets such as Bernard Spencer (whose peregrinatory qualities Buller also echoes) and the late-flowering Donald Ward.

Acumen review Issue 67, May 2010 by William Oxley

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