The Museum of Spare Parts, Marilyn Longstaff
Mudfog Press, 2018 £5.00
Marilyn Longstaff spent some time at the University of Newcastle in a public engagement project entitled Stemistry. The aim was to explore aspects of stem cell research and other areas of genetics. Interesting enough, but set in particular relief, I think, by this writer’s background, imbued not with sciences beyond O Level but with a thorough Salvation Army upbringing.
Such ambivalent viewpoints must challenge each other, and might upset conventional assumptions about life. To write convincingly from the point of view of a thing in a Petri dish requires considerable skill and imagination, which this writer has, or the poems would not work; but work they do, by means of humour, anarchic sometimes and not just of the whimsical variety. The jokes often startle, not because they are ‘upsetting’ but because they open up unexpected chasms and routes of speculation.
I’m not quoting anything from this little book because its wit and curious range of metaphor depend on interlocking contexts, even though individual poems can stand alone. I will only say that if you enjoy a laugh but at the same time like to be provoked into some serious thinking, it’s worth reading this book.