Thursday, May 30, 2013

Airport Music by Mark Tardi

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Mark Tardi's most recent collection of poems is called Airport Music, and it recently found itself on the Small Press Distribution's Best Seller list.

I asked Mark about the inspiration for the book and here's what he wrote back:

As for why I wrote the book, as a Polish-American Chicagoan who grew up about a mile away from Midway Airport and one block away from freight train tracks, the relentless pulse of movement quite literally hung over our heads. I began to consider how airports are a kind non-place, neither here nor there, and how this intersects with a sense of Polish identity. And this sense of being "between" also connects to Polishness, both historically and presently, I think. So much of Polish identity relates to the struggle for nationhood historically; and presently, so many Poles achieve by leaving Poland. Chopin, Gombrowicz, Miłosz, you can go down the line, but so many important Polish figures were outside of their homeland.

As an American living abroad, of course I feel this more acutely in a different direction. There are obvious ways that my Americanness is visible, but in other ways, it shifts within different contexts. It can be both a liberating feeling and a very disorienting one. So I hope those emotions bleed through the book somehow.

I'm also attracted to paradox. So an artist like Sean Scully impresses me for following through a motif his entire life -- to activate stripes -- while Bontecou goes the other route, intense torque and shifts in various directions. Roman Opalka might be a touchpoint here because of his obsessive fixation with numbers, counting, his life's work being to count his days, quite literally. The numbers are textured paintings, but also voiced, uttered; something palpable but also floating in the air. Makes me think of that line from Michael Palmer's "Zanzotto" sequence: "the hum of the possible to say", something like that. I suppose I think of this idea of "airport" as constituent parts: both "air" and "port," impalpable triangulations of space, positions in time and history enveloped in the endless parade of almosts. And there are no giveaway silences, which is a kind of music.

Here are some of the poems from Mark Tardi’s Airport Music:

            for Agata Pietrasik

Impossible, this swept curve, sleep torn.

                                                                        Almost unguessable fractions, one more rehearsal, impossible, purely so, curved in fog. Though not in any strict sense, a door opens and goes on opening, impossible, to negotiate the difference between a handshake and a poem.  We all know dying in Cleveland is

                                                                        redundant, yes, or maybe it’s the weather.  To just walk into a photograph, impossible, sure, but plausible enough. And I’m grateful.  Impossible to marry my mailbox, impossible the curses this early. An impossible affection for the same.

from Airport music

Let x equal the amount of broken glass strewn across the sidewalk;

Let y equal the most hurried, the last

this brute contingency

that any breathing falls, imperfect
half-boarded up

There’s no harm for anyone else
in your mathematics

thin negatives,
slant black

never quiet, only graspless

locked into the cut of a house

Let k equal a knot of people, expectant
sounding each other out

a drawn bath to deform water

a butcher’s broom

5 out of 4 people have trouble with fractions. 
The entireness of simple touch. All those
lost landscapes. 

Your dead body looks like rain;

Mine, rotted planks for pavement, standing
water, vinegar, another flu out of season

Don’t ask how we went, by what sudden leap
or what unforeseen modulation. This zero with
so many ciphers.

It was impossible to watch:

To undress and dress again.
The chest a harpsichord.

That the withheld is the only eloquence left.

Flags and bunting everywhere.

A built-in lefthandedness.

Woven wind.

That the dead are protected. 

Another infinity, a hotel.

It was an injury to the idea.

A saucepan to plant some flowers in.

            after Lee Bontecou

            So why this body again,           less inglorious,

in interminable games of patience.  Why

the doorbell once more, the
anticipatory suspicion, why confess, why
the hammer or lorry or spaceship?

            Why not mine or someone else’s yellow expanding?

Now you lag, tug, looking back, inescapable perhaps,
no longer a mailbox to speak of.

            For the day, or a certain part of it, the rain slides.

            Prior architecture, the perfect colander:

Why not a candle, carpenter’s bench, little hats and all manner of birds?


Mark Tardi's Airport Music is available at Amazon.  Click here.

To read more about Mark Tardi and see some more of his poems, click here: Writing the Polish Diaspora.

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