Contributor Spotlight: B.J. Buckley

“ReDreaming Motherwell: Blue Air;” “Microburst, Blowdown, Lightning;” and “Magritte on Horseback” by B.J. Buckley  appeared in Issue 20 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear a little more about “Microburst, Blowdown, Lightning.”

It may seem counter-intuitive, but though I’m a gritty, hard reality westerner, I’ve always felt an affinity to abstract expressionist and surrealist painters such as Motherwell, Rothko, Pollack, DeKooning, Mondrian, Magritte. The western landscape can be stark, minimal, broken by linear interruptions, cataclysmic weather, fields of brilliant color and shadow – and there can be surreal juxtapositions of objects and events. These poems are from an ongoing series attempting to merge, if not entirely relocate to a Western sensibility and landscape (did you know that Jackson Pollack was born in Cody, Wyoming?) , the visual sense and substance of works by these artists; and to fashion a kind of verbal equivalent of something essential about the work of each. I looked at as many pieces as possible by the artists, both online and in museums, over a period of years.

What was most difficult in writing that poem?

The task of “translating” something visual and abstract into the exacting specificity of language, of moving an artist’s experience to a milieu truly alien to the urban cultures within which most of them worked. I tried to think of the page as a canvas, the words as colors, line, brushstrokes – and to be both free and precise. It was like trying to serve five or six contradictory masters at once.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot. Macfarlane leaves his home in    Cambridge, England, to walk the trails, tracks, droving roads, and sea paths that crisscross Britain, Europe, and farther parts of the world. I’ve been a walker since my feet first hit the ground. For many of us in the West, landscape is more entity than setting: it shapes us – physically, mentally, and spiritually. MacFarlane gets that, and he also gets that walking is simultaneously to travel through and to travel inward, a way of learning a place and one’s place simultaneously.

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Poet Paul Muldoon, an absolute wizard with words, consummate storyteller, and Irish .. my own father stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island from Limerick in 1921, and I hear the echoes of his stories in Muldoon’s.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I’m working mostly on small lyric poems inspired by the landscape, animals, and people around me, their collisions and intersections. Next, God help me, I have a short story that won’t end; it wants to be a novella at least, so I’m trying to maneuver a time and space next year to devote only to that.

Our thanks to B.J. for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Buckley’s poems “ReDreaming Motherwell: Blue Air;” “Microburst, Blowdown, Lightning;” and “Magritte on Horseback” here:


B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the west for over 45 years. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at Sanford Cancer Center, Sioux Falls, SD. Her poems have appeared widely in print and online journals, including december, The Cortland Review, CutThroat, and Green Mountains Review. She has received a number of national prizes and awards for her work. Her most recent book is Corvidae, Lummox Press 2014.