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Register of the Armand Schwerner Papers
MSS 0485  
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • BIOGRAPHY
  • SCOPE AND CONTENT

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Armand Schwerner Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1945-1999
    Collection number: MSS 0485
    Creator: Schwerner, Armand
    Extent: 32.70 linear feet (73 archives boxes, 12 card file boxes and 9 oversize folders)
    Repository: Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
    La Jolla, CA 92093-0175
    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 The papers contain correspondence, drafts of published and unpublished poetry and prose, journals, notes, translations, reviews, and editorial work.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.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research

    Preferred Citation

    Armand Schwerner Papers, MSS 0485. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    BIOGRAPHY

    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 1995.
    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 performance events.
    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 12: RECORDINGS.
    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 Writing grants.
    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 figures.
    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 recordings.
    G) The Records subseries contains a thin vinyl record of Schwerner reading from THE TABLETS.
    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.