Bernadette Cremin is a British poet, performer and actor. Miming Silence is her third collection and this experience shows in the maturity of her writing. The poet knows what to say, when to hint or suggest, and where to stop and be silent.
Divided into six sections of around ten poems, each part opens with a short quote from a well-known musician – there are excerpts from lyrics by The Smiths, Thom Yorke and Portishead. Indeed, Cremin uses contemporary material throughout, alongside historical cultural references – ranging from the words of celebrities to quotes from established literary names. Her poems are mostly short, only rarely extending beyond the length of one page.
Despite the celebrity quotes, and the brevity of the poems, Cremin’s themes are far from light, masterfully combining sarcasm and self-deprecating humour with the utmost honesty to create exceptionally airy and accessible verse. Fast and sharp pacing adds to the ease of reading; however, this is not a shallow ease. This contrast of lightweight and heavier motifs is sustained through the whole collection. The themes vary from images of naive childhood and innocent schooldays, through careless youth and first loves to darker themes (“Scribbling in the Margin”, “Growing Pains”) where Cremin touches on heavier aspects of growing up, exploring for example subjects such as anorexia and sexual abuse.
One of the lighter poems in the collection, “King Pin”, combines a self-mocking look at the poet’s teenage crush with an ironic description of the object of her infatuation:
He was god:
Oxblood 18 hole
skin-fit bleach jeans,
starched Ben Sherman.
I kissed him once at Steve’s 18th.
I was out of my tree
on Benylin and sherry.
On a more serious note, there is a frequently repeated motif – the boredom of everyday life, the ennui of a middle class, depressed housewife and, with it, light criticism of the consumerist lifestyle.
Tina is bored, she’s lonely, so on weekday mornings she escapes via
Unwins and, armed with a bottle of cheapest red, twenty B&H, skins
and sweets for the kids, she goes round Debs … to get wasted in a
hint of a tint prison on a floral print sofa in a living room cut from a
catalogue picture and stacked on the plastic …
Whilst the verses do not lose anything from their lightness and seemingly effortless appearance, we can sense Cremin’s deepest concerns and utter sincerity, craftily hidden behind that sarcastic facade.
See, I’ve tried the small talk-babble
about post-natal depression,
raw nipples and sleepless nights
(but I need to contemplate pearls.
The profanity that beauty is simply
A consequence of irritation…)
and I can’t stop imagining men
with massive hands and cockney accents
who grab your arse and call you ‘doll’…
Miming Silence is a collection with the potential to make anyone feel anxious about reaching that certain age when you might realise just how much you have lost on the way, whilst maturing, whilst becoming a real adult, a parent, a wife or a husband. It stirs up old memories and fragments of the past. You may well find yourself thinking “I know this feeling … I remember this. I remember … I was there and I used to be like that.” That sense of familiarity and that collective nostalgia for those things already lost are precisely what makes Cremin’s poems so enthralling.