Poor Books

From Arrabal to Viallat and from Butor to Velter

Behind the gloomy qualifying adjective of “poor” hide small artistic books handwritten by a poet and then illustrated by a friend and fellow artist. Initiated in 2001 by Daniel Leuwers, a poet, a literary critic and a professor of literature at the University of Tours, this unique collection started after his encounter with poet René Char who, with his “substantial allies” painters Vieira Da Silva, Picasso or Braque, created these “dialogue books” (a collaboration between a poet and a painter).

Today, these books of illustrated poetry are rare treasures jealously kept by wealthy collectors. The initial ambition of Daniel Leuwers was to open the concept of “poor books” to poets and artists, limiting the use of traditional intermediaries used in the book industry: no printers, no engravers, no lithographers, no bookbinders, no publishers.

A single folded sheet of paper is sent to the poet who handwrites the title, text, colophon, etc. and is then illustrated by hand by another artist: paintings, collages, drawing… And from a poor piece of paper, the book becomes rich. Produced in a small number of original copies, generally between four and six – two to four for artists, one for Daniel Leuwers and one for the Demeure de Ronsard – these books are all unique. They come in various sizes and are easy to display. Another luxury of the poor book is that it is easily shared with a very large audience during regular exhibitions at the Demeure de Ronsard and in other regions and countries.

Presented for the first time in 2003 in the house where Ronsard lived, poor books are full of confrontation, intermixing and dialogue between artists from different backgrounds. As for the most assertive writers, Fernando Arrabal, Michel Butor, Yves Bonnefoy, Andrée Chedid, François Cheng, Bernard Noël, Salah Stétié reach out to the generation of Bernard Chambaz, Annie Ernaux, Guy Goffette, Nancy Huston, Henri Meschonnic, and André Velter among others. Painters include Pierre Alechinsky, Georges Badin, Béatrice Casadesus, Erró, Philippe Hélénon, Joël Leick, Michel Nedjar, Jean-Luc Parant, Patrice Pouperon, Claude Viallat, André Villers and Yuki.

A few figures

Exposed again in 2006, 2008 and 2011, the two thousand volumes that make up this collection are part of a kiosk at the Demeure de Ronsard in the new poetry library. Some of these works are presented to the public and organised by themes that are renewed every four months.

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