Brian Lucas illuminates collaborative 'Poetbook'

Brian Lucas illuminates collaborative ‘Poetbook’

From around 1996 to 1999, Brian Lucas edited a poetry magazine and chapbook press called Angle, the issues of which were stapled and letter-size and included a formidable roster of contributors, including Barbara Guest, Paul Vangelisti, Clark Coolidge and Cole Swensen. A visual artist and musician as well, Lucas hand-painted three of the five covers of Angle, which might be seen as a foreshadowing of his current project: “Poetbook: The Illuminated Manuscripts.”

It started when Lucas purchased a few 20-page white hardbound books with blank pages in February. He painted the covers and couldn’t decide what to do with the interiors.

“Although I also write poetry,” he says via e-mail, “putting my own work in the books didn’t appeal to me (although the two disciplines may orbit about and inform each other, along with my music projects, I keep each practice strictly separate).”

At the suggestion of his longtime friend, the poet and City Lights editor Garrett Caples – who is also in one of the issues of Angle – Lucas asked local poets for contributions.

Lucas writes each poem by hand. He then “illuminates” the pages in watercolor. “That aspect is purely spontaneous,” he says. “I endeavor not to obscure any of the text, which to me is the heart of this project.

“By handwriting all the poems I develop a very different relationship with the poems than by just reading them,” he continues. “It’s an interesting process. I climb into the poems. It’s as though I’m following the twists and turns of the writer’s mind-paths, feeling their word choices and relating to the work in a more personal way than by just reading the poems.”

Now with four of these illuminated books, Lucas has decided to conduct a reading, which will showcase the books and feature some of the local poets therein: a stellar cast that includes Micah Ballard, Cedar Sigo, Sara Larsen, Gillian Conoley and Andrew Joron.

“The reading is for the poets who helped make this project happen,” he says. “Without them the books would still be blank.”


Poetbook: The Illuminated Manuscripts: 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Free. Bird and Beckett, 653 Chenery St., S.F. (415) 586-3733.

Other book events

The widely translated and beloved Cuban poet Nancy Morejon will be in town for a series of readings, which includes an evening with California Poet Laureate Emeritus Al Young and poet/editor/translator Kathleen Weaver at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. That event is a fundraiser for KPFA (7:30 p.m. Thursday. $10-$12. 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.)

Thursday, Manic D Press celebrates Pride Month with a reading by some of its authors, including Daniel LeVesque (“Hairdresser on Fire”), Daphne Gottlieb, Michelle Tea, Justin Chin and Larry-Bob Roberts (7:30 p.m. Free. Books Inc., 2275 Market St., S.F.)

The Mechanics Institute Library hosts its 12th annual Bloomsday Celebration on Sunday, with dramatic readings from James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Irish music, dancing and food. Reservations are required (6 p.m. $25. 57 Post St., S.F. )

This post originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo by Ho