Filmmaker: Mike Hazard

Tamamushi-Iro: haiku about bugs by Issa

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A thoroughly wonderful project from Media Mike Hazard at The Center for International Education:

A swarm of 25 first through eighth graders at Capitol Hill School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was busy as bees off and on for a whole school year, creating Tamamushi-Iro. It is a great little video of haiku about bugs written by the Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827). We might look at it in many different ways.

While developing the project with the art teacher Julie Woodman, I learned from Ross Corson, then an aide to Ambassador Mondale in Japan, that there is a saying, “tama-mushi-iro,” literally meaning “round-bug-color.” It is used in diplomatic circles to describe something which looks beautiful to everyone, yet different from all angles. Our dream became to create a video of some of Issa’s insect haiku which might be seen as tamamushi-iro.

Like a Rashomon, the video has been seen as a program about Issa, about bugs, about poetry, about Japan, about kids’ views of the world, about art and artist residencies, about television, about international education, about experiential learning, about crossgenerational, crosscultural and crossdisciplinary education, about a person who lived 200 years ago, about inquiry science, about old poetry and new technology…It has been seen in many colorful ways.

First, it’s about great poems. This is why I love poetry. My nine year old daughter, who was on the Issa team, saw a spring fly, and flew to get a flyswatter. She raised her arm, and in mid-air stopped, and thought “Issa,” and let the fly fly. Now if we raise a society to respect even the tiniest creatures of the earth, maybe when some dumb finger is about to push a button and blow us all to kingdom come, some small poem will save us from our worst selves. If we can create a society which stops and thinks, stop and think: we just might….

Ambassador Mondale helped us connect with Sakurababa Junior High School in Nagasaki. Our sister city relationship between Saint Paul and Nagasaki was set up to heal the war wounds of World War Two. On a profound level, this was all about international education, across time and space.

I look into a dragonfly’s eye
and see
the mountains over my shoulder.

Toyama ga
tsuki ni utsuru
tonbo kana

Be sure to read the whole article, and if you’re an educator, consider ordering a copy of the video.

Cold Mountain (Han Shan)

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A while back I posted another excerpt from this documentary, featuring three animations. This is the opening 5+ minutes of the half-hour documentary by Mike Hazard and Deb Wallwork, with animations by John Akre.

At the Crossroads by David Bengtson

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Poem by David Bengtson

Video by Media Mike Hazard (The Center for International Education) with a class of students at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle High School

Accordion: Juergen Brunkhorst

Three by Han Shan (Cold Mountain)

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Video animation of three Han Shan poems by John Akre.

How refreshing to see this modern interpretation of Han Shan, and with a reading in Mandarin Chinese on the sountrack! This is apparently an excerpt from a half-hour-long film produced by the Center for International Education, directed by Mike Hazard:

COLD MOUNTAIN, a half hour film portrait of the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Han Shan (a.k.a. Cold Mountain), will play with OH, SAIGON at 5pm on Sunday May 3, 2009 at the Oak Street Theater, 309 Oak Street SE, Minneapolis, during the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Cold Mountain plays first.

Recorded on location in America, China and Japan, Burton Watson, Red Pine, Jim Lenfestey and the legendary Gary Snyder describe the poet’s life and recite poems.

Co-directed by Mike Hazard and Deb Wallwork, the music is by the internationally renowned pipa player Gao Hong and animations are by John Akre. A project of The Center for International Education, the film has been supported by the Outagamie Foundation, the family of John W. Brower and the Bush Foundation.

Deb Wallwork writes, “Cold Mountain is a rollicking, tasty film filled with poetry, colorful characters, Zen wisdom, and witty commentary. The film gives us glimpses of that mysterious–some say crazy, some say enlightened–figure, Han Shan, who left the dusty world to become a hermit and a poet, and in so doing wrote the intimate and inspired lines that speak to us today.”

Mike Hazard adds, “One way to look at the film is to see that literally everyone in the film is channeling the spirit of Han Shan: the Mandarin of Jin Hua, the trickster animations of John Akre, the street singer, the rice thrashers, the Butterfly Woman, the four poetical guides, the monks in the temple kitchen, the bats in the cave, Gao Hong’s pipa, even the cicadas compose a richly layered portrait of Cold Mountain.”

Blink by Morton Marcus


Poem (“Blink”) by Morton Marcus

Video by Rachel Burnham with Media Mike Hazard and David Bengtson from Listen Up! youth media network

A nicely minimalistic treatment, though I’m not sure why they changed the title. Hearing it in a kid’s voice really adds to the impact of the poem for me.