La main sur le mur

Michel Butor
Julius Balthazar

Michel Butor first became known as the figurehead of the 'Nouveau roman', but recently he has been writing nothing but poetry. Poems are dynamic, he says, they represent mobility and metamorphosis, for those with a 'nomadic spirit'. Some of these poems come to him spontaneously during a walk through the forest, but Butor usually writesto commissionfor a painter, graphic artist or sculptor. His bibliography lists over 1000 editions, hundreds of which include works of art by the likes of Pierre Alechinsky, Gregory Masurovsky and Henri Maccheroni.

Etching by Julius Baltazar
Etching by JuliusBaltazar

Etching by JuliusBaltazar

Poem (fragment) by Michel Butor
Poem (fragment) by Michel Butor

Poem (fragment) by Michel Butor



Another artist with whom Butor collaborated regularly is Julius Baltazar (alias Lambion Gilles). Their collaboration began after a meeting in 1978. They produced dozens of books and works of art together, usually in exclusive limited editions (sometimes of no more than two copies), with texts that were sometimes printed, and sometimes handwritten by Butor. Le main sur le mur was published for the occasion of an exhibition by gallery Lorelei (in Brussels) in sixty copies, each with an original dry-point, etched in PVC by Baltazar. This was the first print of the poem that was later included in the collection La forme courte (1990). That collection is typical of Butor's ideas, as he considers 'the short form' of poetry a great advantage in such hasty times: 'Poetry is the haiku of daily life'.

The poem has only ten lines of seven words each, with a fixed structure, beginning with the preposition 'Dans', a demonstrative pronoun, a noun, and so on:

Dans cette cage il vente gronde vole
Dans cette scene il neige gronge menace

Bibliographical description

Description: La main sur le mur / Michel Butor; [pointe-sèche de Julius Baltazar]. - Paris : I.S.M., 1981. - 4 p. : ill. ; 11×22 cm
Printer: I.S.M. (Parijs) (txt)
Luc Moreau (etching)
Exemplaar: Number 57 of 60 on Arches
Note: Signed by the artist
Bibliography: Bénézit 1-694
Shelf-mark: KW Koopm D 139


  • Baltazar: Livres manuscrits, imprimés gravés et pints, 1975-1986.[Bruxelles], Bibliotheca Wittockiana, 1986
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • André Clavel, 'Michel Butor: le poète horticulteur', in: Lire, (2004) 325, p. 76-77