Over Coffee With Ellen



Last Sunday I was told about a book that had been published recently by Michael Hanson, a gentleman who grew up in the North Country. I knew Michael’s Mother Martita Hanson and was most interested in the book that my family member had described.

A trip to the bookstore confirmed the book was indeed in print, but there was none to be found in the store in Massena and I was told by the bookstore clerk that the book could not be ordered by her!

A telephone call was made to a friend, Michael’s Aunt Norma Brock. In just a few days after my visit with Norma, a hand addressed package arrived at our Bombay home containing the book, “Autumn Blush,” a beautiful, touching collection of poetry. This beautiful book of poetry is dedicated by Poet Michael Hanson “to the memory of Martita Aldea Casey Hanson, my Mother.”

I am sure many of you remember Martita – the May 24, 2000 Over Coffee column was devoted to her, when this lovely woman was honored as the NYS District Six Volunteer of the Year. Highland Nursing Home Activities Director Beverly Bolton said at the time that the residents had selected Martita, “she takes time to listen and visit,” she said, adding, “we are very thankful for her.”

What a joy it was this week amidst snow and ice storms to receive this beautiful book and read Michael’s extraordinary use of words. Reading Michael’s book on a snowy North Country day was an escape into a world of emotions over loss and grief and joy for life with thoughts not only of his Mother Martita, but of canine friends and playful kittens! There is even a section on seasons with each described with thought and caring.

It has been such a pleasure this week to communicate with Michael via the internet. As we visited I learned there are connections with this wonderful poet not only through his Mother Martita. Michael has North Country connections, connections with Massena and even with this newspaper!

Michael was born in Potsdam, but for the first nine years of his life he lived “all over the world as an Army brat,” he told me this week. His father “eventually retired to Massena in 1972 where our family settled in.” Michael attended school in Massena and is a Massena Central High School graduate.

I had asked Michael when he first began writing poetry. I learned this week that his early beginnings as a poet had connections with the Massena Observer (that name predates the newspaper that is now known as the Courier-Observer). “If memory serves, I believe my first attempts at poetry (both prose and verse) were during my teens (in Massena).”

He explained that his older brother Keith had published a poem in the local newspaper. “I found myself wanting to emulate his achievement. I think I had three or four poems published in the Massena Observer during the latter half of the 1970’s.” How marvelous to think our local newspaper played a role, albeit a small one, in Michael’s journey as an author.

There were teachers here in Massena that also influenced Michel’s poetic pursuit. “I would like to say that Massena Central High School English teachers Thomas Maxcy, Josephine MacKenzie, and Sandra Long were all very supportive of my nascent writing skills,” Michael said, adding, “If it wasn’t for that early encouragement, I doubt I would have continued pursuing my dreams of one day becoming a poet.”

After having some of his poems published, Michael then found himself writing only the occasional poems, he told me. During the 1980’s and 1990’s he had none published and all that he had written were lost during various moves he had made at the time during college and in New Jersey.

“My Mother was a major inspiration for this collection,” Michael said as he spoke with such feeling about Martita. “After the sudden death of my mother” and other difficult events in his life at that time, Michael told me he found he needed “to express a lot of emotions and frustrations that kept welling up in me more and more often. Ultimately, I found that writing these verses became a catharsis for my grief, depression and melancholy.”

The poem, “Mother Ghost” I found particularly moving – Michael confirmed that that particular poem represented his grief after his Mother’s death.

“After my sister Helen, my sister-in-law Terry, my nephew Jeffery and I took a two-week tour of Ireland (where we spread a portion of my Mother’s ashes), I had a sudden desire to start putting my feelings into words…and the rest is history.”

“After awhile, I found myself practically addicted to the process of conceiving and creating poetry,” Michael continued to explain. He added that he found himself “entering middle-age with a hunger to write up to four poems in a week’s time (usually during lunch hours at work).” The book “Autumn Blush” represents about five years of Michael’s life. Included in this first published anthology are 60 of the 160 or so poems that he had written during that span of time. Amazing!

Michael’s sister Helen H. Harrison designed the book, dust jacket, book cover and interior design (which I must say is very pleasing as you read). The painting used on the cover of this anthology was created by renowned Maryland portrait artist Cedric B. Egeli. Michael told me that he had become good friends with the artist. Michael’s sister incorporated the painting into the cover design beautifully.

Michael further explained his sister Helen is a professional graphic artist who works out of Colorado. YaYe Books is an imprint from her business, YaYe Design. “Autumn Blush” is the first book to be produced by YaYe Books. How marvelous – not only to enjoy this remarkable book of poems, the first to be written by poet Michael Hanson, but to have a book in hand that is the first to be produced by a company! A fine bonus indeed!

Michael is the fourth of five children. His siblings are: Helen Harrison, Keith Hanson, Wayne Hanson, and his little sister Cindy Adler He mentions his sister-in-law Terry Hanson, along with his brothers and sisters in the Acknowledgements at the beginning of his book, attributing each with being instrumental in inspiring him to bring this book to fruition.

He attended Syracuse University, where alongside his filmmaking activities; he studied creative writing and poetry. He graduated with a degree in Film Production in 1989. In 1990 he moved to New Jersey. Michael is currently living and working in Piscataway, New Jersey.

I have been fascinated with the use of words for quite some time. I find myself jotting down a beautifully worded phrase or an unusual use of words to remember at a later time. When I hear or read someone who is a true artist with pen in hand (or now at the keyboard) I am awestruck. This poetry anthology and its wonderful descriptive phrases brought me a great sense of joy.

My heartfelt thanks to Norma for first sharing the book with my husband and then for the beautiful gift of my personal copy of “Autumn Blush.” And my thanks to Michael Hanson for sharing his inner most feelings which have touched my heart. And thanks, too, Michael for being willing to share your thoughts as we visited this week and allowing me to share your marvelous achievement with the publication of this book with your friends and neighbors here in Massena.

Michael now has a second book two-thirds complete (HAUNTED: An  Anthology of Poetry). I am looking forward to its publication. I am also looking forward to finding the short story Michael mentioned he had written and which has now been published. When I find “Mister S and the Christmas Zombie Mice” and when I am able to hold his next book in my hand, I will share both with my Over Coffee readership as well!


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – I never lost confidence. Never lose confidence in yourself. Eli Manning, NY Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, after his team’s 17-14 Super Bowl victory on Sunday.


Reprinted by permission of Courier-Observer Editor Ryne Martin.

Daily Courier-Observer
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Page 14
“I am awestruck...a beautiful touching collection of poetry...” 
- Ellen Emery