Poetry News

Canarium's Nick Twemlow Interviewed at Best American Poetry

By Harriet Staff

An interview with Canarium Books editor and poet Nick Twemlow by Canarium author Robert Fernandez is up at the Best American Poetry blog! The feature also includes a sample of Twemlow's poem, “The Twenty-four Complications,” from his forthcoming book, Palm Trees, "along with a link to the video piece, Richard Prince, around which part of the discussion...revolves." Interestingly, much of the conversation revolves around one Brooke Shields:

RF: ...Can you describe what happens, in either film or poetry, in that moment—how you’re drawn in, how work comes out of that?

NT: Recently I made this piece, Richard Prince, which is a seven-minute study of Brooke Shields, primarily using footage of a eulogy she delivered at Michael Jackson’s televised memorial. I had been thinking about MJ and Shields off and on for some time—largely because my wife, Robyn Schiff, had written a poem featuring Shields—the Calvin Klein poem in her book Revolver—and had also written a poem considering MJ, a few weeks after he died. I watched a good chunk of the memorial live—this was an entertainer who may have been the most gifted showman of his time, a figure who imprinted on me at a young age. I can still do the moonwalk, which I practiced for hours upon hours as a child. I was sad, as millions were that day, and awestruck by the raging escalation of spectacle that he left in his wake.

Some time later, I found myself watching YouTube clips of the various eulogies from that day (I came across these clips while looking for footage of MJ doing the robot, for another video piece). Brooke Shields mesmerized me. There was a gesture she made, and I noticed—and it was really a function of the main camera’s set-up, which was the standard medium-shot where you see the subject from the chest up—I noticed she’s moving her head in such a way that I wanted to really consider these movements. It occurred to me that she is quite striking. She’s also a pure cultural product: Her mother, a famous stage mother, made her available to the public at a very early age, and she has had all of these problems and career reboots…not unlike MJ. It makes perfect sense that they were friends.

And as someone pointed out to me who saw a draft of this video, it seems like MJ saw, in Shields, the ultimate form; perhaps his own interior and exterior metamorphoses were pitched toward this ideal. If you look at her closely—and I think I was thinking about this when I was watching this video—watching her face and upper body in slow motion, you start to recognize the similarities, because you’re looking at shapes; it’s geometric. I think that, at some point, this video hit an undercurrent of all these different ideas, and I let it go for a little while, but it stuck with me. I didn’t articulate any of that to myself at the time, but in the end what I thought was, there’s all this mirroring going on between the subject of the eulogy and the person delivering the eulogy in terms of ideologies, cultural baggage, etc., and it just seemed right to press on…

Watch the video below, and read the full interview and poem here.


Image courtesy of Bill Adams.

Originally Published: July 11th, 2012