Untranslatable (PoemTalk #179)

Armand Schwerner, 'Tablet XXV' and '"daddy, can you staple these two stars together to make an airplane?"'

From left: Jerome Rothenberg, Pierre Joris, and Charles Bernstein in the garden of the Kelly Writers House. Photo by Al Filreis.


Al Filreis gathered together Jerome Rothenberg, Charles Bernstein, and Pierre Joris to talk about two poems by Armand Schwerner. The first was written near the end of Schwerner’s life, for his major series titled The Tablets. The poem discussed here is “Tablet XXV” [TEXT; AUDIO] and, along with all the other sections, it can be found in the complete edition published by the National Poetry Foundation in 1999. The second poem is an earlier one, “‘daddy, can you staple these two stars together to make an airplane?’” [TEXT; AUDIO] originally published in Seaweed and available on page 50 of Selected Shorter Poems (Junction Press, 1999). Our recordings of these poems come from PennSound’s Armand Schwerner author page. “Tablet XXV” was recorded by the National Poetry Foundation in the mid-1990s. Our recording of “‘daddy, can you staple …’” was made by Paul Blackburn during Schwerner’s public reading at the Poetry Project, at St. Mark’s Church, in New York, on January 18, 1967, and is made available through the remarkable Blackburn collection housed at the University of California at San Diego.

Jerome and Diane Rothenberg visited the Kelly Writers House for a week in September 2022. On the day after the studio session in which this PoemTalk episode was recorded, Jerry gave a reading, in part from his new book In the Shadow of the Mad King (2022, Granary Books). The video recording of that reading is available here below (and HERE on YouTube). HERE is the program note about that event. Jerry also joined the leaders of ModPo to be part of that week’s live interactive webcast. Video clips have been made of several parts of that conversation about Gertrude Stein:

[] Rothenberg on Stein’s remaking of the English language: VIDEO CLIP
[] Rothenberg recites a passage from Stein’s “Composition as Explanation”: VIDEO CLIP
[] Rothenberg chooses one favorite among Stein’s poems: VIDEO CLIP
[] Rothenberg comments on Stein’s verbal portrait of Picasso: VIDEO CLIP

PoemTalk was directed by Zach Carduner, engineered by Zach Carduner and Paul Burke, and edited by Zach Carduner.