SCOPE AND CONTENT
Title: Armand Schwerner Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1945-1999
Collection number: MSS 0485
32.70 linear feet
(73 archives boxes, 12 card file boxes
and 9 oversize folders)
Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
Physical location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Abstract: Papers of Armand Schwerner, poet, performance artist, musician, translator, editor, and
professor of literature. Schwerner is best known for his long serial poem entitled "The
Tablets." The papers contain correspondence, drafts of published and unpublished poetry
and prose, journals, notes, translations, reviews, and editorial work. Schwerner's
readings and performances are represented by flyers, text, photographs, and audio and
videorecordings. Also included are drafts of writings of others and subject files related
his interest in Buddhism, and various biographical documents. The papers are arranged in thirteen series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL
MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE,
3) WRITINGS BY SCHWERNER, 4) PERFORMANCES AND READINGS, 5) INTERVIEWS WITH SCHWERNER/
CRITICISM OF SCHWERNER, 6) TEACHING MATERIALS, 7) CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS, 8) WRITINGS
OF OTHERS, 9) SUBJECT FILES, 10) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 11) PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS, 12)
RECORDINGS, and 13) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
Collection is open for research
Armand Schwerner Papers, MSS 0485. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Armand Schwerner was born on May 11, 1927, in Antwerp, Belgium. His family immigrated to
the United States in the mid-1930s, and settled in New York City. He attended Cornell
University, where he published his first poems in the CORNELL REVIEW. Schwerner then
attended Columbia University, earning a B.A. in 1950 and a M.A. in 1964. In 1964 he began
teaching English at Staten Island Community College.
In the late 1950s, Schwerner published poems in small magazines, and his first book of
poetry, THE LIGHTFALL, appeared in 1963 from Jerome Rothenberg's Hawk's Well Press.
During this period he also co-authored with Donald Kaplan a satiric prose book, THE
DOMESDAY DICTIONARY, published by Simon and Schuster in 1963.
In the mid-1960s, Schwerner began writing a long serial poem, "The Tablets," which was
framed as translations of erratic texts on clay tablets from an extinct culture in the
Near East. The first publications of "The Tablets" announced that these poems were
"transmitted through Armand Schwerner," who, in turn, represented himself in a fictional
form in the poem as the "scholar/translator." Numbered serially, the first eight
"Tablets" were published by the Cummington Press in 1968 as THE TABLETS I-VIII, and a
subsequent volume, THE TABLETS I-XV, was published by Grossman in 1971. Three subsequent
collections of poems gathered expanded versions of "The Tablets," which finally
culminated with a posthumous edition of 27 complete tablets, accompanied with journal
notes and divigations, from the National Poetry Foundation at the University of Maine in
1999. THE TABLETS were also used in two theatrical productions, one eponymous staging by
the Living Theater in their 1989-1990 repertory and another entitled DRAGON BOND RITE, in
Schwerner's works of collected poetry also include IF PERSONAL (1968); SEAWEED (1969);
THE BACCHE SONNETS (1974); THIS PRACTICE (1976); THE WORK, THE JOY AND THE TRIUMPH OF THE
WILL (1977); SOUNDS OF THE RIVER NARANJANA (1983); and SELECTED SHORTER POEMS (1999).
Schwerner was adept as a translator, concentrating on work from Native American texts,
but he also produced a translation of PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, as well as an incomplete
version of Dante's INFERNO, which he was working on at the time of his death. Schwerner
read his poetry at dozens of venues throughout his career, often collaborating with other
artists, or providing his own musical improvisations.
Schwerner died in February 1999.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Armand Schwerner Papers document all stages of his life and intermingled activities
as a poet, playwright, translator, performer, and teacher. The papers contain manuscript
and typescript drafts of Schwerner's prose and poetry, including his long serial poem THE
TABLETS, published collected poetry and unpublished poems. Many of his activities as a
performance artist, both in reading his own works and in collaboration with others, are
represented by texts, instructions, photographs, film, and cassette audio and
videorecordings. Also included are interviews with Schwerner; articles by others about
his work; correspondence with family, editors, artists, and other poets including Stephen
Berg, Michael Heller, Toby Olson, and George Oppen; drafts of translations; editorial
work; teaching materials; conference and meeting materials; prepublication writings of
other poets; and research files related to Schwerner's interest in Buddhism and Akkadian
and Sumerian texts. High school and college notebooks, papers and other materials
document Schwerner's educational development and academic training.
The papers date from the late 1940s through material that was published posthumously in
1999. The papers are arranged in thirteen series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2)
CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY SCHWERNER, 4) PERFORMANCES AND READINGS, 5) INTERVIEWS
WITH SCHWERNER/ CRITICISM OF SCHWERNER, 6) TEACHING MATERIALS, 7) CONFERENCES AND
MEETINGS, 8) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 9) SUBJECT FILES, 10) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 11)
PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS, 12) RECORDINGS, and 13) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series is arranged in six subseries: A) General Materials, B)
Address Books, C) Appointment Calendars, D) Educational Materials, E) Family Materials,
and F) Tax Returns.
A) The General Materials subseries, arranged alphabetically, contains documents that
relate to Schwerner's life, including his birth certificate, identity cards, passports,
curriculum vitae, as well as immigration, marriage and military service documents. Also
included are clippings about Schwerner.
B) The Address Books subseries contains small address books and lists of addresses.
C) The Appointment Calendars subseries, arranged chronologically, comprises both bound
calendars and loose leaves of monthly calendars with annotated entries, often with
several versions for each month.
D) The fourth subseries entitled Educational Materials, arranged alphabetically by
institution, contains class notebooks, loose notes, transcripts, and examination books
from Schwerner's high school and college education. His school essays are located in
SERIES 2: WRITINGS.
E) The Family Materials subseries contains genealogical material in the form of
photocopies of letters.
F) The Tax Returns subseries, arranged chronologically, documents Schwerner's income
generating activities and non-teaching sources of income.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
Armand Schwerner's CORRESPONDENCE is arranged in two subseries: A) General and B) Poetics
Listserv. The General subseries, arranged alphabetically, includes letters from several
dozen poets and critics as well as a large number of friends. The majority of the most
important sets of correspondence involve editors, publishers, or artistic collaborators,
including Frances Alenikoff, Stephen Berg, Carol Berge, Harry Duncan, Sande Green,
Michael Heller, Burt Kimmelman, John Martin (Black Sparrow Press), Toby Olson, George
Oppen, Sherman Paul, Margaret Randall, and Ellen Zweig. The Poetics Listserv subseries
contains printouts from this online discussion group that Schwerner collected.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY SCHWERNER
The WRITINGS series is arranged in twelve subseries, with the main portion of the
materials comprising poetry at various stages of textual development, including both
published and unpublished work: A) School Papers, B) Journals, C) Notes, D) Published
Poetry, E) THE TABLETS, F) Unpublished Poetry, 1950s-1960s, G) Unpublished Poetry,
1970s-1990s, H) Published Prose, I) Unpublished Prose, J) Translations, K) Reviews by
Schwerner, and L) Editorial Work.
A) The School Papers consist primarily of typescript drafts of essays on literary figures
written during college and graduate school. B) The Journals subseries, arranged
chronologically, contains intermittent entries by Schwerner into a wide variety of bound
notebooks that often contain laid in quotes, newspaper clippings and notes. Undated
journals located at the end of the subseries relate to projects or subjects.
C) The third subseries entitled Notes is largely made up of loose sheets of paper and
notecards with handwritten observations.
D) The Published Poetry subseries, arranged chronologically, contains drafts of
individual poems published in literary journals and in Schwerner's works of collected
poetry. Drafts of poems comprising a collected work are arranged according to the table
of contents of the work. Published poems appearing individually or in several collected
works are associated with their work of first appearance.
E) The TABLETS subseries is arranged first numerically by individual "Tablet" and then
chronologically by grouping the material in order of its appearance in book form,
beginning with the Cummington Press collection in 1968. Translations of "Tablets" appear
at the end of the subseries.
F) The Unpublished Poetry, 1950s-1960s, subseries, arranged alphabetically by title,
contains manuscript and typescript drafts of Schwerner's unpublished poems written during
this period. Some of the poems may have been published in literary journals.
G) The Unpublished Poetry, 1970s-1990s, subseries contains drafts of poems written in the
last decades of Schwerner's career.
H) The Published Prose subseries comprises typescript drafts of THEDOOMSDAY DICTIONARY,
drafts of journal articles, essays about "The Tablets" and Buddhism, and Schwerner's
master's thesis on Wallace Stevens.
I) The Unpublished Prose subseries contains prose fiction, as well as introductions of
poets and comments on their work. Of interest is Schwerner's short account of his
poetical development entitled "Autobiographical Account of Poetical Development."
J) The Translations subseries contains drafts of poems and dramatic work ranging from his
translation of PHILOCTETES by Sophocles to Buddhist and Native American texts, as well as
an incomplete rendition of Dante's INFERNO.
K) The Reviews by Schwerner includes both published and unpublished reviews of books or
L) The editorial subseries contains material related to Shwerner's sporadic editorial
projects, including work on THE NEW WILDERNESS LETTER and his production of study guides
for literary works. The QUIXOTE materials contain typescript submissions from Jerome
Rothenberg, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and others.
SERIES 4: PERFORMANCES AND READINGS
This series is arranged in two subseries: A) Performances and B) Readings. A) The first
subseries comprises texts, performance scripts and slides for the various theatrical
adaptations and presentations of THE TABLETS, especially productions by the Living
Theater in the late 1980s, and the use of this poem as a text in DRAGON BOND RITE, a
multi-media production in the mid-1990s. Also included are materials related to
collaborative performances with Ellen Zweig, Sande Green and John Malpede. Many of
Schwerner's performances are documented on audio and videorecordings located in SERIES
B) The second subseries, arranged chronologically, contains a large number of flyers
announcing poetry readings which featured Schwerner. These readings often included
performances by other musicians or dancers who collaborated with Schwerner during
portions of the presentation. Also included are posters for readings and flyers for
Schwerner's musical performances.
SERIES 5: INTERVIEWS WITH SCHWERNER/ CRITICSM OF SCHWERNER
The fifth series organizes the literature about Armand Schwerner and his writings and
consists of two subseries: A) Interviews and B) Criticism. The first subseries gathers
transcripts of interviews done with Armand Schwerner by literary critics such as Willard
Gingerich, while the second subseries, organized by the name of the critic, arranges
articles written about his poetry with a special emphasis on criticism of THE TABLETS.
SERIES 6: TEACHING MATERIALS
The Teaching Materials series includes documents which focus on Schwerner's career as an
educator and contains largely administrative and project materials, rather than
documentation of individual classes. The materials are arranged in two subseries: A)
College of Staten Island and B) Miscellaneous Teaching Materials. The latter subseries
also contains materials which reflect his extensive participation in various
Poet-in-the-School programs in the New YorkCity area.
SERIES 7: CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS
This series collects materials which pertain to Schwerner's attendance and participation
in a wide range of academic conferences. These convocations are arranged alphabetically
by the name of the institutional host or organization, and include a Modern Language
Association meeting (1994), two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars
(1978 and 1981), two National Poetry Foundation conferences at the University of Maine
(1993 and 1996), and a Cross-Cultural Poetics Conference. Materials often include
annotated programs and notes.
SERIES 8: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
The WRITINGS OF OTHERS series, arranged alphabetically by author, contains manuscripts,
both poetry and prose, which were sent to Schwerner by significant poets, writers, and
critics for comment or as complimentary gifts. The most prominent collections of this
kind of material came from Stephen Berg, Willard Gingerich, Sam Hamod, Michael Heller,
d.a. levy, Jackson Mac Low, Jerome Rothenberg, and Ellen Zweig.
SERIES 9: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged in three subseries: A) Miscellaneous, B) Buddhist
Materials and C) TABLETS Related Materials. The Miscellaneous subseries documents some of
Schwerner's diverse activities, from his investment in the Blue Yak Poetry Bookshop to
his interest in schizophrenia. The Buddhist Materials focus on Schwerner's long
involvement with Buddhism and meditation practices. The TABLETS Related Materials contain
sources and research materials related to anthropology, computer graphics, and Akkadian
and Sumerian texts.
SERIES 10: MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS
The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series gathers assorted materials which provide additional
insight into the performance parts of Schwerner's career as well as information about the
support he received as his reputation grew. It includes musical instruments used by
Schwerner in his performances, rubber stamps with Buddhist themes, and an artwork of
assembled materials. Also included are grant application materials to such institutions
as the National Endowment for the Arts, from which Schwerner received three Creative
SERIES 11: PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS
The PHOTOGRAPH AND FILMS series is arranged in four subseries: A) Films, B) Photographs
of Schwerner, C) Photographs of Schwerner and Others, and D) Miscellaneous Photographs.
A) The Films subseries contains two 8 mm films and a 16 mm film of Schwerner's
performance of THE TABLETS.
B) The Photographs of Schwerner subseries comprises portraits of Schwerner, mostly
informals of personal photographs of Armand Schwerner, as well as films of him performing
his own poetry.
C) The Photographs of Schwerner and Others subseries includes images of Schwerner with
family members, Schwerner with friends and otherpoets, and Schwerner at events. The
subseries also contains documentation of his wedding reception.
D) In the Miscellaneous Photographs subseries are travel photographs from Japan and
France, images of other poets and documentation of the books in Schwerner's library.
SERIES 12: RECORDINGS
The RECORDINGS series gathers audio and videorecordings which document Armand Schwerner's
artistic, intellectual and spiritual practices, and is arranged in ten subseries: A)
Cassette Audiorecordings of Schwerner, B) Cassette Audiorecordings of Schwerner and
Others, C) Cassette Audiorecordings of Others, D) Reel-to-Reel Audiorecordings of
Schwerner, E) Reel-to-Reel Audiorecordings of Schwerner and Others, F) Reel-to-Reel
Audiorecordings of Others, G) Records, H) Videorecordings of Schwerner, I)
Videorecordings of Schwerner and Others, and J) Videorecordings of Others.
A) The first subseries contains recordings of Schwerner playing flute, as well as reading
from THE TABLETS and the DOOMSDAY DICTIONARY.
B) The Cassette Audiorecordings of Schwerner and Others subseries documents Schwerner's
collaborations with Ellen Zweig, Charles Stein, John Malpede, Sande Green, and Peter
Whitroy. The recordings of interviews by Willard Gingerich, Hanon Reznikov and Philip
Corner are also located in this subseries, as are recordings of Schwerner's Thursday
literary discussion group.
C) The Cassette Audiorecordings of Others subseries contains recordings given to or
collected by Schwerner and relate to his interests in Buddhism and French literary
D) The fourth subseries, Reel-to-Reel Audiorecordings of Schwerner, includes music played
by Schwerner and S Press recordings of THE TABLETS.
E) The Reel-to-Reel Audiorecordings of Schwerner and Others subseries contains
Schwerner's collaboration with John Malpede at the Yellow Springs Institute.
F) The sixth subseries, Reel-to-Reel Audiorecordings of Others, comprises collected
G) The Records subseries contains a thin vinyl record of Schwerner reading from THE
H) The Videorecordings of Schwerner subseries documents his readings.
I) The ninth subseries contains collaborations, especially the DRAGON BOND RITE and the
Living Theatre performances of THE TABLETS.
J) The Videorecordings of Others subseries contains collected works and a videorecording
of the memorial reading for Schwerner at the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in 1999.
SERIES 13: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or
high acid content documents that have been photocopied.