Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mark Tardi about Chopin (Vol. 1, No. 11)

One of the poets published in the anthology, Chopin with Cherries, Mark Tardi, sent me his answers to a set of four questions I intended to ask of all the poets who wrote about Chopin. The questions and answers are below.

1. What is your earliest or most intense memory associated with Chopin's music?

Both my earliest and most intense memory of Chopin stems from an episode of Woody Woodpecker I watched when I was 7 years old. It was the early version of Woody, where he was scarier and far less cute than the later version, and Woody basically terrorized Andy Panda during a piano recital. Andy was heroically determined to play Chopin's famous polonaise while Woody tried everything he could to derail his efforts: jump on his hands; pull the piano away from him; hack up the piano with an ax, and eventually set it on fire. I remember that Andy struck the final chords of the polonaise just as the flaming piano collapsed into cinders.

I loved everything about the cartoon: the passion, determination, music, chaos. Years later as a high school student I was working at a supermarket and a friend gave me a compilation of somebody named Chopin. I went home and played the CD and when I heard the polonaise I said out loud "That's the guy from Woody Woodpecker!" Of course it turns out he had something of a career long before then.

2. Why do you like Chopin's music and what does it mean to you?

The short answer would be that I connect with his emotional register. There are no giveaway silences in Chopin. And his unparalleled commitment to coax out every hum of possibility in the piano, the singular vulnerability, is one of the most beautiful and intimate gestures in the history of music.

3. What is your favorite piece by Chopin and what do you like about it?

Though it's difficult to single out, his nocturnes are deeply important to me -- and so many of them are incredible. But if pressed, probably I'd say Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1. The relentless desolation, breathless insistence, the tragic advance and recede envelopes me to the core. The variable emotional texture of the piece, so much nuance and turn, and the little nods to Schubert . . . it all leaves me devastated and grateful.

4. Do you like cherries, if not what is your favorite fruit?

I do like cherries, but I'm not sure I'd call them my favorite fruit. My favorite fruit would either be white peaches or blood oranges.


Mark Tardi is the author of Euclid Shudders, a finalist for the 2002 National Poetry Series that was published by Litmus Press. He also wrote two chapbooks Airport music (Bronze Skull, 2005) and Part First-----Chopin’s Feet (g o n g, 2005). Recent work of his can be found in Chicago Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, and the anthology The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Millennium. He is on the editorial board of Aufgabe, an international literary journal, where he is coordinating a project devoted to the work and influence of Polish poet Miron Białoszewski on contemporary poetry. He was the 2008/2009 Senior Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature & Culture at the University of Łódź, and his Airport Music is forthcoming from Burning Deck Press.

His contribution to our collection was prefaced with a quote from Witold Gombrowicz's Diary: "I much prefer the Chopin that reaches me in the street from an open window to the Chopin served in great style from the concert stage."


NOTE: Illustrations from vintage 19th-century postcards. Maja Trochimczyk Collection.


oriana said...

This is a wonderful, wonderful post! Thank you, Maja and Mark.

Erika Wilk said...

I was in Spain at your time with Chopin in Chicago, I thought of you then , wondering how things were going.
Your wonderful articles and interviews are once again proof that you are
indeed our Chopin leader.
Congratulations my friend!