Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Armand Schwerner Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0485
35 Linear feet
(74 archives boxes, 12 card file boxes, 2 flat boxes, and 6 oversize folders)
Date (inclusive): 1945 - 1999
Abstract: Papers of Armand Schwerner, poet, performance artist, musician, translator, editor and professor of literature. 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contain correspondence, drafts of published and unpublished poetry and prose, journals, notes, translations, reviews and editorial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.
Scope and Content of Collection
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The Tablets, published collected poetry and unpublished poems.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, 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 / CRITICISM, 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.
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. 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 Doomsday 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
Dragon Bond Rite, in 1995.
Schwerner's works of collected poetry also include
If Personal (1968);
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
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.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Armand Schwerner Papers, MSS 485. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Original films and recordings are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced. Extremely brittle documents
have been photocopied for preservation. The original documents are restricted due to fragility; researchers may use the photocopies
located in the collection.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
American poetry -- 20th century
Andrews, Bruce -- Correspondence
Weiss, Mark -- Correspondence
Blackburn, Paul -- Correspondence
Bernstein, Charles -- Correspondence
Economou, George -- Correspondence
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau -- Correspondence
Joris, Pierre -- Correspondence
Heller, Michael -- Correspondence
Mac Low, Jackson -- Correspondence
Kelly, Robert -- Correspondence
Paul, Sherman -- Correspondence
Olson, Toby -- Correspondence
Wakoski, Diane -- Correspondence
Rothenberg, Jerome -- Correspondence
Schwerner, Armand -- Archives
Tarn, Nathaniel -- Correspondence
Zweig, Ellen -- Correspondence
Fraser, Kathleen -- Correspondence