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Six birds v a one-trick pony / 14 September 2011

A foot surrounded by eggs

Hatching new ideas. Photo © Robin James

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I was bored of the sound of myself, aware I had become ‘safe’ as an artist and thus petrified at the prospect of grazing my days away in the paddock for one-trick-pony performance poets.

So I polished my tie, combed my cufflinks and decided to smarten up my act. I think I just needed to convince me that I was still convinced by me. After all, if I was tired of me there was no hope for an audience or reader was there?

I think it’s sometimes easy to forget, as artists, what we’re doing and why. Although I am often redeemed by the restless seed sewn by Chris Savage in the late 90s in a Big Issue review he wrote for me which read: ‘Bernadette Cremin is the mistress of the underbelly of the human condition.’

It was my first published review and one I cherish because I remember thinking, ‘He gets me/it.’ And if Altered Egos can do some justice toward such an accolade, then I’m a very happy lady because I guess that’s where its heart lies -- in the ‘mucky stuff’.

I’ve always welcomed the (male and female) characters that have waltzed and wombled in and out of my poetry over the years and Altered Egos is, in essence, a homage to six of the women who have been lurking between the lines forever.

The first realisation I made when I started looking closer at my work was how well they had eluded me. I know that sound bonkers. Just trust me! I didn’t really have a structure (clue?) let alone some vision for the show when I first performed it in last year’s Brighton fringe. And in retrospect, I am really thankful for that. Because it literally found its own way once I started following haphazard footprints left through over 15 years of poetry.  And with the treasured help of friends, especially Paul Stones, it proved a priceless adventure.

But now its time to lace up my spats as the journey has just begun now that I’ve started working with the eminent director Mark Hewitt  of  Lewes Live Literature. It’s a prospect which excites and terrifies me in one breath because I know now that I’ll be punching well above my own weight.

You should be careful what you wish for Miss Cremin…

We sat on the wrong side of sympathy

as Dr Scott’s manicured words
outlined the shadow that has crawled
around your lung like spiteful ivy
since last autumn.

For the last time we faced that painting
that hung in her consulting room:
‘Mountain’ (oil on canvas). Abstract.
Signed by a contrived hand, underlined.

For a moment truth made the view bigger.
Outside, London was still happening,
red, amber, green.
Brixton was planning its tea.

You fussed with your cuff like a truant
as the diagnosis was disguised
in plain English for us to take home
to the kids, a gift-wrapped grenade.

Forever gracious you offered to drive
knowing I am petrified of twilight.
We sat, gridlocked, then as if it didn’t matter
you leant forward, let a violin out of the radio.

We pulled into the drive, parked.
Chloe’s bike was still against the shed
where yesterday had left it….
Now is where the end begins:

I’ll start to collect your silhouettes,
fingerprints left on glass and plastic,
your discarded shadows, left-over profiles
and rough sketches I’ll never show you

for the portrait I’ll paint,
David (oil on canvas). Abstract.
To hang at that sly angle
only you would understand.