Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 7
A Tribute to Michael H. Hanson on his 52nd Birthday

Compiled and Critiqued by Anthony Servante

This month of December 2013, we celebrate the words of my good friend, Mike Hanson, author, poet, observer of life and love, in all its forms, from painting to people. This month he celebrates his 52nd birthday. 

A fellow F. Paul Wilson fan, we met many years ago on the Repairman Jack website. Besides Paul, whom I also call friend, Mike and I became comrades. We put an anthology together called Keepsakes, a tribute to Wilson, but that didn't work out (there wasn't Amazon Kindle in those days). What did work out was that Mike and I have been in contact by Repairman Jack Website posts, emails, and now Facebook since we first met online. 

I've always loved his narrative voice in his fiction; he has a strong vocabulary and knows how to wield it. But then there's Michael H. Hanson the Poet. He softens his vocabulary to strengthen the themes of his poems, to match the paintings that inspire his poetry, and to reach the universal reader. Between his Sha'Daa series of Science Fiction books, Mike has published two collections of poetry in print ("Autumn Blush" published by YaYe Books and "Jubilant Whispers" published by Diminuendo Press). 

We are honored to have Mr. Hanson, the Poet, share some original work with us today. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present Michael H. Hanson.

Mike Hanson

At 52
by Michael H. Hanson

So here I am at fifty-two,
a somewhat cautious, wiser man,
much less judgmental in this queue
of mortals marching to the end.
Don't call me middle-aged my friend,
I think I've exited that door.
Unless saved to computer chip
I won't live to one hundred four.
And passions, yes, still riddle me
with all manner of fierce desires.
A cauldron of outrageous dreams,
I feel love's unrequited fires.

I wonder what wonders I'll see
upon Earth's face
flinging through space
from now until I'm fifty-three.


W. B. Yeats wrote about aging since he was twenty years old. At such a young age, he wondered at the injustice of growing old. Later in life, in his 60s, he realized that he was repeating himself about the inevitability of elderly life, saying the same thing in different ways. In At 52, Mike sparks a similar realization. When he tells the reader not to call him "middle-aged", he admits that those years have already passed, as has young adulthood and youth itself. He admits with courage that he is ready to face Death, as he is but one on many "in this queue
of mortals marching to the end." 

But in mind and spirit, he also admits that he is still young at heart, yet feeling "love's unrequited fires." And with age comes wisdom but "passion" yet endures in all its mystery. It is here that his final realization comes, that like passion, life is still an unfinished mystery with "wonders" abounding everyday, from birth until death, from birthday to birthday.

We, on this side of 50, share this wonder with Mike. In youthful ignorance, there is untamed passion, but in aged understanding, we smile at the fact that life is "no country for old men" (Yeats).


“Enlightenment” – painting by

Midnight in Moon Alley
by Michael H. Hanson

We journey through endless alleys
Bathed in moonlight, led by candles
Speaking in whispers, wispy and soft
Holding hands, smiling in shadows
The warmth of night clutching our breasts
Our footsteps as light as cats’ feet
We float and flow through the city
Dream-like serpent of human flesh
A living train of such good will
Our blush heralds our arrival
And angels greet us with their song.


Mike trends some new ground here, and I welcome it. Midnight in Moon Alley is a sustained metaphor wrapped in figurative language, familiar yet foreign. We hear what he speaks, although he uses another language that we do not understand. Much like "irony", which can confuse many who are deaf to its purpose, this poem resonates with meaning.

We follow an unseen presence on a "journey" through darkness, perhaps ignorance or impending death, but false light guides us (moonlight, candlelight - the vessels that give our eyes primitive sight, as opposed to the natural light of the sun that carries the full spectrum of color). As our eyes are deceived, so, too, are our ears, for we speak in "whispers", a symbol for fear of being heard. It is the "night" that brings on this fear, this "hand holding".

But the night brings "warmth", a symbol for the afterlife. Like souls "we float" through the city, through life (the "cat" here can represent the nine lives or man's luck at avoiding death on occasion). Ultimately, however, death will greet us as "the angels" singing a song.

If I didn't know better, I would include this poem with the previous one as one of Mike's Death Cycle poems on aging. But it's such a fine example of poetic writing that I can forgive him his pessimism, even if it includes a trip to Heaven.


“Expression in Blue and Green”
oil painting by
Artist Martina Shapiro

Night Swimmers
by Michael H. Hanson

She is a creature of water
wading through tidings and greetings
unaffected by the currents
of shallow, chill conversations.

The warmth of laughter draws her near,
luring her with a full chuckle,
enticing glow of ruddy blush
and the scent of frank loneliness.

Calmly, quietly she drifts close,
preternatural gaze,
entrancing and mesmerizing,
quickly startling and capturing.

Floating in wispy greens and blues
and all of fate’s rapacious hues.


Night Swimmers is a metaphor for loneliness in a "sea" of socializing, perhaps bars and other night spots where singles meet. As a "creature of water", our loner walks (wades) through many clubs, greeted by flirtations and pick-up lines but "unaffected" by the phonies. She seeks real companionship, and if she's lucky, real love, here represented by the "warmth of laughter". But she is cautious as she approaches the merry sound that is like a lure, a hook waiting to catch her like a fish in the pond. Yet she "drifts close" to the risky lure hoping to be caught by the right guy, wondering what "fate" awaits her.

Mike explores the lonely side of love here, its expectations and risks. To find that love that will make the loneliness vanish, one must sometimes get caught in the wrong relationship with the wrong person. We can only try again and again with equal parts despair and hope in our empty heart. A very touching sentiment in this age of cyber connections between people.


“Whisper of Papillon” – painting by artist Dorina Costras

Fomenting Azure
by Michael H. Hanson

She bathes in the soft, blue whisper of wings
Laving in living silken caresses
Such a tender, sensitive second skin
Masking countenance, and cradling her flesh
Circling the emerald seas of her sweet eyes
Luminous blanket held tight to her breast
A thousand wispy and tactile kisses
She bathes in the soft, blue whisper of wings.

I really love this painting "Whisper of Papillon"; so much so, I friended artist Dorina Costras. One can easily see how taken Mike is by this work of art as his poem Fomenting Azure explores the piece in an almost descriptive narrative of the content and model in the painting. The words and picture meld, no, coalesce, nicely, turning words and colors into a new mixture, creating a new form. Alone the painting works impressively, but with Mike's words, it shines all the brighter; the poem, sadly, is weakened without the work by Costras.

I have pointed out in the past that Mike has a gift for creating one form, where words and paint become a hybrid art piece. At times, his words overshadow the paintings, and at other times, they work perfectly together; but sometimes the painting overshadows the words. Costras takes the match by a split decision, but with art such as hers, I challenge any poet to write to the level of her art.

Valiant effort, Mike. I can't wait for the rematch.


(music and lyrics and vocals by Merry Ellen Kirk)

Oh say if all of the raindrops
Were ten thousand gumdrops
Now wouldn't that be sweet
Oh say if all of the snowflakes
Were ten thousand milkshakes
Now would that be neat

But when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own

And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy

Oh say if every teardrop
Would stop by the sweet shop
To play hide-and-seek
Oh say if every pipedream
Were strawberry ice cream
Now wouldn't that be neat

But when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own

And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy

So say that all of the raindrops
Are ten thousand gumdrops
Now isn't that sweet

And when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own
And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy


I asked Mike to select this month's song whose lyrics qualify as poetry. So I did the critique before I listened to the music. He came up with Candy by Merry Ellen Kirk. I hope you will read her words before you play the video below. Let's get to the poetry therein.

We have seen thus far in Michael H. Hanson's poetry the themes of life, love and loneliness, so it is no surprise that Candy falls under the latter subject matter. Merry compares life, via nature (rain, snow, sky) with human emotion (tears, false hope, or "pipedream[s]") and re-imagines them as childlike fantasies, where candy and ice cream were replacements for our "real life", tasting life with layers of syrup added to ensure it would be sweet. But it isn't. It's just a fantasy. She writes, "But when the sky falls/There's nothing at all", except "candy"; or in other words, life is sad unless we had happiness to it. You might as well replace the word "candy" for booze or drugs or other false happiness. 

Our songstress does not find "happiness" in nature or in life; she needs to "sweeten" it to enjoy it. It's like waking up hungover; Merry explains, "And then you just crawl/You can't find your own/Feet". Without the false niceties we add to achieve a happy state, all we have left is our fantasies, or as Kirk poetically describes it, "And there's nothing to eat/There's nothing to eat/Nothing to eat/But candy". Note how she repeats the phrase "nothing to eat" (or lack of real happiness) unless we pretend to be happy with a dependence on euphoria inducements, or "candy".

Very poignantly sweet poem. No pun intended. Now listen to the song. It's a beautiful melody, which makes the words all the more sadder. 

Candy by Merry Ellen Kirk

Thank you for joining us for this month's look at Poetry Today. As always, we welcome your poetry submissions and comments. Until next month, your host, the Servante of Darkness bids you good reading.

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