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Armand Schwerner, The Tablets, Part I

Armand Schwerner was a poet who scripted works of grand proportions. The piece for which he is best known, and that subsequently defined a new genre of poetry, is humbly entitled, The Tablets. The epic is a reconstruction of ancient Sumero-Akkadian inscriptions, complete with lacunae and untranslatable words. In a broader sense, Schwerner made a translation of his own metier, uncovering the poetic potential of an anthropologist's study of ancient languages and traditions. In this case, one that was over 4,000 years old. Rather than the pretext of subtleties often represented in the art form, he focused on the made thing – the poem became the artifact, the object. He spent 25 years transcribing the work, ultimately concluding with his death, an effort that has been likened to Ezra Pound's Cantos.

This segment is the first of two programs featuring the profound writer. In this initial 1976 recording, Schwerner reads, or performs, the piece as it nears completion.

Armand Schwerner (1927-1999) was a Belgian-American translator, critic, linguist, and poet. He studied at Columbia University receiving degrees in English Literature, French, and Anthropology. Remaining in New York for his entire career, he is often associated with the poets and playwrights of that era, particularly with the off off Broadway company, The Living Theater. In the 1980's the group staged a number of performances on The Tablets. Schwerner often collaborated with Jackson MacLow and writers of artists' books.


Historic Audio from the Archives of Charles Ruas


An unparalleled collection of recovered and restored programs from the seventies produced by Charles Ruas, and featuring Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Anaïs Nin, William Boroughs, Buckminster Fuller, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges, among numerous others.