The Land of Bad Dreams
Kyla Lee Ward
P’rea Press
Trade Paper, 142 pages, $18.00 AU
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

“I feel words like some people feel music,” says Aussie poet Kyla Lee Ward. And certainly in the collection of her works entitled The Land of Bad Dreams, there is rhythm as well as rhyme. Kyla is in favor of reading poetry aloud, allowing the reader to be a vocal interpreter; like a singer to a song. Her dark visions have a striking note of whimsical levity: The overall tone is cloaked in Goth black leather, yet there is a gossamer element about it; an Edward Gorey sensibility, but with an edgy vibe. Ms. Ward’s “feel” of/for words is off kilter and captivating.

Consider the first stanza from “Herbal Tea”:

Goblins sleep in the roots of herbs,
where cat’s eyes peep in the roots of herbs.
Intricacies of tiny limbs,
of crawling, gnarled and hidden things.
Secret juices, fragrant life,
a monkshood and an iron knife
cross uneasy over the fey
rustles from the dim-dawned day.
Leathern books and old proverbs,
shadows creep in the roots of herbs.

Ward gives a father’s funeral an unusual take in The Cat’s Cortège. Applying a bit of Hamlet, and a tale of two kitties, a usurping feline brother of the deceased gets his comeuppance in this delightful prose narrative. Cream rises to the top, but said cat uncle finds himself in a less lofty position. His two smart kitty nieces are ready to pounce, and do so with lethally playful vigor.

Returning to poetry, The Feast of Mistrust is a series of linked poems dealing with a particular theme. Encompassed in the section called “The Fear” is this stanza which richly establishes a character:

Lady Webbe can see the dead,
her blessing and her curse.
A doom to know what lies below;
to not know would be worse.
She takes all due precautions and with care her route will choose,
making good use of bridges and unlikely platform shoes.

“Unlikely platform shoes” is a wonderful image, and one that defines the teasing, tricky mind of Kyla Lee Ward. She is a wordsmith in love with words. They are the music to which she sings, and she also dances to the melody with enthusiasm. The Land of Bad Dreams features artwork by the poet which lends extra texture to the written compositions. The multiple contents contained in this P’rea Press compilation display the talents of a writer spreading her creative wings – and soaring.

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