Sunday, January 12, 2014


rob  mclennan Reviews

Airport music by Mark Tardi
(Burning Deck, Providence, RI, 2013)

Yes, ruthless
so much a square mile

pickled hands and cutworm

Yes, clean geometries

warned with corners

A stuffed
zero in an armchair

poorly equipped for the cold

Your algebra nearly fainted, salt-blue

The question of specific gravity

baths filling, flagpoles
casting shadows,

your father’s negative age

five years ago

The six-sectioned collage that makes up Mark Tardi’s second trade poetry collection, Airport music (Providence RI: Burning Deck, 2013), manages to hold itself together in a series of spaces in-between, akin to the temporality of airports in any city, any country. The book is made up of a series of poem and poem-fragments composed as sketches, short notes that, brought together, make up something with an amorphous shape, one that seems difficult to describe. “Yes, I envy those people who never existed.” he says, in the poem “Ad libitum 1.” Later, in the second poem of the series, he writes that “There is no permanent place in the world / for ugly mathematics.” The poems in Airport music are akin to the poem-scraps of notebook taking, written as an exploration of a kind of thinking or comprehension, some of which reads as correspondence, such as this piece, from the title section:

Second letter on the same day:

Best to end these confidences. It’s not that I’m superstitious, but that I’m not. Some people like to go to church, and some people like cherries. A corpse won’t change any of that. The usual whisper and splash, soup and a pair of shoes.

Given the note-taking quality of some of the pieces, is the narrator/author writing to an unnamed other, or to the self, as in a diary/journal? Airport music is composed in six sections—“October,” “Airport music,” “Reciprocal of Rain,” “Partitia,” “Part First—Chopin’s Feet” and Symmetria (November)”—the second and fifth of which previously appeared as chapbooks with Bronze Skull Press and g o n g, respectively. It’s interesting that the second section would lend title to the collection as a whole, corralling the entire work into something that is highlit in a single section. Given that the back cover speaks of the author working “at the intersection of American and Polish culture,” where else might two foreign cultures meet, but for the neutral space of international airports? It’s a subject that Canadian poets Sarah Lang and Sachiko Murakami have been exploring lately as well, but one that Tardi sketches out so peripherally, as though the music that he features is meant to quickly bleed into the background.

Still no solution, so how about an old joke:

            2 plus 2 equals 5 for sufficiently large values of 2.

Maybe you’re right that the infinite resembles a wound, but “unperturbed
kernels radiant and inevitable?”

yes, I know counting is not proving. So I’m left reaching.
If you’re dead, do let me know. (“Airport music”)


Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012) and grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at

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