Book Review: ‘Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings’

front cover of book. The background is a painting of the back of two women. They are nude and gazing down.

Before I get to the review, Gabriela Marie Milton is holding a poetry contest around her new book Woman: Splendor and Sorrow. Head on over to her blog post for details!

Now on to the review of her previous book…


Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings by Gabriela Marie Milton

Let’s say you’ve walked through a few houses with blank walls. Maybe these are show houses in a new development in town. The blankness of the houses reminds you of routines: doing the same things every day, eating the same foods.

Then you enter a house with tapestries hanging on the walls. The tapestries are filled with vibrant images and suggestions of senses. That’s the kind of feeling given by Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings. Each poem is like a tapestry. 

You walk up to each tapestry and absorb the images woven into the fabric. Some images give the suggestion of aromas (cinnamon, “braid my hair with smells of lavender and roses”). Some images invite touch sensations (wind, “running barefoot on cobblestone streets”). Others conjure sounds (purring cat, whispers, “you make pianos sneeze old rhapsodies”). Others serve up tastes (passion fruit, “destinies melt in the taste of coffee and mistrust”). Others give glimpses of places around the world (Florence, Granada, Rio de la Plata).

The poems are celebrations of language, locations, emotions, and senses. These are Flamenco dancers, characters from myths, kisses, flowers, wooden beds, a woman being called Beatrice and wishing that was her name, “pigeons guide ships lost at sea,” wine, dreams, and a lot more.

The poems invite you to take in the images from those tapestries. Remove each tapestry from the wall and wrap it around you. For these bright emotions and senses enrich our lives. These keep our lives from become stale, monotonous. 

Most of the book is comprised of Ms. Milton’s poems, but there are two other sections. One includes poems by Flavio Almerighi, and these are split into columns: English translation on the left and the Italian version on the right.

The final section includes prose poems and flash fiction. The rich language continues in these, now with more narrative to sew together more concrete scenes. I enjoyed the poems in the book, and I enjoyed these fiction pieces more. I felt the fictional pieces were easier for me to enter the scenes and take in what was happening there.

This is a lovely book that’s like taking a vacation from the ordinary.

You can by this book at Amazon here.

More of Ms. Milton’s writing is at her blog.

Audio of 4 ‘Dancing Fish’ Poems

I dipped my toe into the audiobook world by narrating four poems from my book The Dancing Fish.

This is something I’ve wanted to try and see how it goes. A different way of experiencing the poems. At first recording (using my cell phone), I sounded dorky and stilted. Then practice, practice, practice. Until I sounded more natural. And narrating became more fun as I relaxed more.

The four poems that I read on the video are:

  • “The Dancing Fish”
  • “Popcorn Tree”
  • “Quirky Miss Q”
  • “Xob of Chocolates”

If you’d rather see the video on YouTube, click here. If you watch it, please remember that I’m not a professional audiobook narrator 🙂

Shel Silverstein

I’d like to include posts about some of my inspirations. Feels good to share these with you lovely readers out there, and to give thanks to the folks who have influenced my writing and drawing.

First post of this kind is to Shel Silverstein, whose work inspired me to put poems and illustrations together into The Dancing Fish. The poems in that book started many years ago, as ways to entertain my two daughters and to post on my old blog. Shel Silverstein’s books influenced what I wanted: poems to make my daughters laugh (or at least smile and give a little giggle).

After I wrote poems for a few years, I put the poems aside. They remained out of sight until I had the idea to create drawings to accompany them, and all of that would be placed into a book.

Of course, a shining example had been around all along in Silverstein’s books. But I hadn’t considered such a book until last year. The long delay between writing the poems and starting the book caused me to look at the poems with fresh eyes and recall the joy of writing them.

I loved Silverstein’s silliness, his turning something around and looking at it from different angles. We’re so used to falling down, but what if it was possible to fall up? If you bent down and looked around, you’d see everything in a different way (“New World”).

And I loved the playfulness of drawings to extend the fun of the poems, and to me the magic is in the expressions of the people and animals. From scared Santa running from a hound (“Christmas Dog”) to a worried guy peering at cantaloupe through a microscope (“Nope”) to pleased animals looking at the guy in a cage (“People Zoo”) — all are drawn with such humor that you can’t help but smile, even with scared Santa. (All these poems are in Falling Up.)

Silverstein’s fun could be subversive at times. The challenge of selling hats to the peculiar people in “Headless Town.” An odd gumball machine with an eyeball in it (“Gumeye Ball”). A very strange order in a restaurant (“Who Ordered the Broiled Face?”).

He suggested that being too good would be boring. “Camp Wonderful” is described as such a nice place, but the poem’s narrator ends by firmly stating “I know I’m gonna hate it.” Instead, there’s enjoyment in at least hearing about naughty things, as the narrator of the “The Pirate” lists the dastardly deeds of Claude the pirate, then expresses the wish to sit next to Claude at dinner, presumably to hear his juicy stories.

Silverstein is directly inspirational in his “Put Something In”:

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.

A Light in the Attic, 1981

And that’s what I wanted to do with The Dancing Fish. Put something goofy into the world. An illustrated poetry book inspired not only by Silverstein, but e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and more. A book that will hopefully bring smiles and laughs to readers.

I went in different directions with my drawing than Silverstein. I like cross-hatching as shading rather than his stippling dots. While Silverstein used black as a single color, I liked the variety of different grays in the mix. I’m not even close to Silverstein’s talent of drawing expressive faces, and I think mine are rather plain by comparison.

Youtube has fun animations of Silverstein’s poems:

“Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”

“Sick”

“Where the Sidewalk Ends”

Dancing Fish Contest

Announcing The Dancing Fish Contest!

If you like reading playful poems with illustrations, this is your chance to win a book of them! I’m celebrating the publication of my latest poetry book, The Dancing Fish, with a FUN CONTEST where I’ll be giving away 6 signed paperback copies.

Entering is EASY! Put on your creative hat and draw an underwater creature, then post an image of it on Twitter or Instagram. Draw a swordfish or shark, an octopus or jellyfish. The medium is up to you: pencil, paint, or digital artwork. And the style is up to you: silly or serious, realistic or abstract.

Tag your post with #DancingFishContest and include me, @dwilliamswriter, to be sure that I see your post. You don’t have to follow my Twitter or Instagram account to enter the contest, but jump on board if you like!

Some questions you might have buzzing in your brain:

When will this groovy contest start and end?
The contest starts today (Friday, January 15, 2021) and ends on midnight (U.S. eastern time zone) Friday, January 29th.

How are the winners chosen?
At random. Here’s how it’s going to play out: As the entries come in, I will write your name on a note and put it in a bowl. On Saturday, January 30, each of my two daughters will cover their eyes and pick out three names. I’ll announce the winning entries on my Twitter and Instagram pages.

Can I enter multiple times?
Yes. So the more drawings you post, the more notes with your name will be placed in the bowl.

Is there an age restriction to enter?
Nope. If you’re 1 year old and finger-paint a fish on paper, then a parent or guardian can upload an image of the artwork. (By the way, if you’re 1 year old, congrats on being able to read this!)

I don’t live in the United States. Can I still enter?
You bet! It would be neat to see foreign entries. I will ship books to international winners.

How will entrants know if they’ve won?
I will contact the winners through direct message on Twitter or Instagram, wherever they posted their image. I will ask for your name and address, so I can sign and send the book to you. The books will be shipped by USPS media mail. If you don’t hear from me on January 30, you can figure that you haven’t won.

I’m looking forward to seeing your artwork of underwater creatures!

Cover for The Dancing Fish

My posts have been book reviews of late, and I’ve been enjoying many books by self-published authors. But that’s not the only thing I’ve been doing. I’ve also worked on a book of playful poems and illustrations. And I’m ready to reveal the cover (drum roll, please):

It feels wonderful to reach this stage in the development of The Dancing Fish. I wrote most of the poems 8 to 10 years ago, published them on my old blog (Zooky World), then moved to other projects.

This past summer, I had the idea to collect the poems into a book and create drawings to accompany them. Along the lines of Shel Silverstein’s books, which have entertained and inspired me. I aimed to not follow directly in his footsteps and draw in my own style, with lots of cross-hatching and using gray (Silverstein’s drawings in the poetry books that I’ve read had full black with no gray).

The book has 100 poems, most of them with an illustration. It’s been fun to come up with drawings that include characters from the poems, and I really hope it will also be fun for readers to make their way through the book.

I plan on publishing the book in early January 2021. And when that happens, I’ll post about it here, as well as on Twitter. (My account is @dwilliamswriter.) Until then, I will up my posting game, to put up drawings and poems. Some from the book, some that aren’t a part of any project.

Book Review: Beginnings

Beginnings book cover

For today’s book review, I’m shifting to poetry. The book is Beginnings, by Judy Ferrell.

When I learned that Judy lives in southwestern Virginia, I was quite curious about her poetry. I have often visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, and have enjoyed the area. In addition to the beautiful scenery, there’s a rich culture.

Added to that culture are the poems in this book. There’s a directness in these poems. They celebrate the comfort of home, love of family and friends, nature, and music. They don’t shy away from talking about the pains of being misunderstood, loneliness, and heartbreak. They meditate on dreams, time, and sources of happiness.

As the book’s blurb states, the poems are about Judy’s journey. Starting on a farm, as the second poem describes, that’s a wonderful and loving environment. The journey from there has difficulties, and scars can come from those. But, as Judy writes, scars can be seen as “beautiful pieces of art.” Joys have also been found on the journey, and Judy describes them well.