Merry-Go-Round review

31 Jul

Merry-Go-Round and Other Words

By Bryn Fortey

The Alchemy Press, 2014, 352pp

Available in paperback and on the Kindle from and


This is a collection of poetry and fiction from one of my favourite small press writers, a mixture of darkness and light. Bryn Fortey had horror stories published in the old Fontana anthologies and has had numerous poems and short stories published by Atlantean Publishing and other small presses, as well as making appearances in some of the fine anthologies published by The Alchemy Press. Merry-Go-Round opens with a lengthy and absorbing introduction by editor Johnny Mains, which is both the perfect introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the man and his work, as well as still being of interest to those readers who are familiar.

Bryn Fortey is a writer who knows how to write to perfect effect. The opening story of the collection, Shrewhampton North-East, for example, has perfect pace, whilst making use of repetition to simultaneously replicate the boredom of a stifling train journey and build a subtle air of menace in a wonderfully offbeat story.

Perhaps my favourite story in the collection is the wonderful Ithica or Bust retells The Odyssey in space (I especially like the passing reference to a Cassandra-box!). with Odysseus attempting to his home planet of Ithica.

Amongst the poems, Boy In A Box is one of the best, articulating poignant loss at the death of his son (“I know you can’t hear / I know it’s not the you I knew / I know you are dead”). Marching Into Glory puts into words the beauty and sadness of New Orleans funeral jazz.

A lighter example of Bryn’s poetry, as well as the 2009 first place winner of the Data Dump Award, is the fun A Taxi Driver On Mars (“Not much call for taxis on Mars / But there has to be a couple / Ever on standby / Ready for the occasionally needed journey”). This and the 2011 joint-second Data Dump Award winning poem Safari, about the titular reservation world, were first published in Atlantean magazines.

The poem A Solitary Dream has marvelous imagery (“Some dreams draw mansions in the sun / And rivers on the moon / Short dreams have only just begun / And others end too soon”).

Having opened the volume, a continuation of Shrewhampton North-East brings it to an end, followed by an Afterword in which Bryn outlines much of the inspiration for his writing, another fascinating piece.

Although I have touched upon just two of the stories and a handful of the poems, there are many more, covering q variety of styles and topics. If you have encountered some of Bryn Fortey’s writing before, I am sure you will be as keen as I was to read this collection, and if you are new to his work, then there’s no better place to start. Even if not all the content is to your taste, there is so much and such variety that you will find plenty to entertain you. The closest I can get to a criticism is that a few poems would have been better if given their own page, rather than split across pages – and, then, only because they’re so good! This is an excellent collection that shouldn’t be missed if you enjoy fiction or poetry. Highly recommended.



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