Waterloo Press

Norman Buller

Norman Buller was born and grew up in Birmingham, England. He was educated at Fircroft College, Birmingham and St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English. He became one of the Cambridge poets of the early 1950s and his verse appeared in magazines and anthologies alongside that of Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes.

From the mid-1950s for about twenty-five years Buller wrote very little. His occupation was in careers advisory work at the universities of Sheffield, Queen’s Belfast and Birmingam. While at Belfast he took part in Philip Hobsbaum’s creative soirée alongside Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and others and throughout that time published only one pamphlet of thirteen poems in 1965. Buller flared into print 30 years later with a pamphlet Travelling Light (Waterloo, 2005) swiftly followed by his first full collection Sleeping with Icons (Waterloo, 2007) has been widely praised in journals including Envoi and Poetry Salzburg Review.

Buller has been widely published in anthologies and journals including, in the UK, Acumen, Outposts, The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine, The Rialto, Cambridge Left and in the USA, The California Quarterly and The Comstock Review. He has had two previous chapbooks published, Thirteen Poems (Festival Publications, Queen’s University Belfast, 1965) and Travelling Light (Waterloo, 2005).

His verse has been awarded prizes including first place in the Ware Poetry Competition.

For more information on Norman Buller visit: http://www.normanbuller.me.uk/

Fools and Mirrors (2010)
Available December 2009/January 2010 

ISBN 978-1-906742-16-4

Norman Buller’s second full collection confronts the universal prism that Fools and Mirrors us. Behind the prosodic elegance beats an earthy vitalism that tussles with a disembodied, spiritual distrust of the physical – a fascinating dynamic. ‘Portraits by Francis Bacon’ captures the tortured carnality of that artist’s work, its misanthropic grotesquery provoking the poet’s Gulliverish revulsion at the animal in us. But Buller’s pessimism is more sceptical than devout, and when saying ‘we dream a sense of purpose/ ...the rest is meat’, a sense of salvation triumphs in the beauty of such phrasing.

In stark contrast is an appetite for Lawrentian symbolism: ‘roadsides yellowed/ by phalluses of broom’. A poet deeply sceptical of the turn society has taken over the last three decades, Buller’s work is alert to an encroaching decadence that most pretend isn’t there. His is a humanistic politics that laments the post-War consensus, while quietly accusing capitalism of its gradual dismantling; from Aldermaston to the eerie blue skies of Manhattan 9/11.

In a more theological vein, Buller probes the spiritual life of Martin Luther, and, antithetically, Cardinal Newman, and Pope Innocent the Tenth via Velasquez. This detour through Catholicism echoes the Thomism of David Jones’s oeuvre: art as sacrament. There are portraits of Kandinsky, Klee, Chagall, and Walter Sickert via a model’s cockneyish idiom. Aphorisms flourish: ‘A church bell summons the faithful./ Something will endure’, or the sublime ‘...I wring your shadow in my hands’.

Alun Lewis and Dylan Thomas haunt ‘and night again prepares to bear/ the village away in sleep’, while ‘Dear Gerard’ ghosts Manley Hopkins uncannily. Such echoing of past voices, no mere pastiche, is almost mediumistic. The book’s core theme is mortality and the artist’s impulse to transcend it: ‘The poet aspires to the condition of art,/ a thing made which outlasts its maker’. Buller’s is a voice of endurance through self-transcendence whose historical verisimilitude makes for a more vital addressing of the present.

...an author with the remarkable distinction of being an influence on Thom Gunn in the first, youthful, phase of his writing. A more formal style comes to Buller with an easy elegance. Its mature melancholy creates a particular voice.
Will Daunt, Envoi

...what runs through most of Buller’s work... is a different direction entirely for the short poem, for Buller’s work is subversive at its core.
Jeremy Hilton, Poetry Salzburg Review

He tackles [poetic] forms with freshness and bravura ...a poet who has learnt from the past and brings his knowledge of poetry and culture together in many excellent poems.
Roland John, Hippopotamus Press

To be able to fashion the correct balance between economy of form and intensity of expression is the signature of a true and meticulous craftsman and Norman Buller is one such rare breed of poet.
Alan Morrison

Sleeping With Icons (2007)

ISBN 1-902731-38-7

This is the remarkable first full collection of a poet praised by Thom Gunn as one of his prime influences. Norman Buller is a superbly adroit balancer of the formalist and modernist.

Well-known before 1958, he was silent for 22 years, during which time he worked in Belfast, part of the circle including Heaney, Longley and Mahon. When he was able to write again from 1980 he was not a completely different poet, but a profoundly developed one: elegist and satirist, he refracts historical occasion to all he’s experienced, which includes the poets he’s known and worked with.

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

Buller’s work can be as stimulating as a well-iced gin and tonic
Glen Cavaliero

Fastidious, gentle, lyrical, and exceptionally prosodic, Buller is an accomplished exponent of poetic form, while also being freely confident in occasionally doing without it. And this all depends on the tone and subject of what he is writing about. Buller is a consummate craftsman, whose meticulous skill is balanced with an ease of expression and a musicality of language. His elegies and tributes to various artistic influences – D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Strindberg, Picasso et al – are admirably devoid of callow self-comparison. Buller’s poetry only lacks self-preoccupation: he keeps himself to one side and pays tribute to all those things in life, both tangible and abstract, that have inspired him
Alan Morrison

To read extracts please click here


Travelling Light - Waterloo Samplers No. 12 (2005)

ISBN 1-902731-28-X

Norman Buller's distinctive, structured verse comes as a fresh and reassuring breeze of unpretentious relief in the post-modern, post-lyrical free-form powerplay of today's poetry scene - one which often misdiagnoses a timeless attention to rhythm and form as symptomatic of retrogressive conventionality, whilst skirting over the importance of 'the subject'.

Buller is one poet who marries weighty relevance of subject with the occasionally traditional carriage of form to as strong an effect as the more fashionable experimentalists. An accessible erudition pervades this dexterity of form and rhythm, with an occasional nostalgic echo among perennial themes ('The Mendips and Mrs. Cox') and sporadic polemical surprises as in the wittily sardonic 'Millenium Gig' -
Alan Morrison

To read extracts please click here

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