Exclusive Interview – The Man Behind the Mouse…of Zen

Members of the Disney community present on Twitter and Facebook are no doubt familiar with Mouse of Zen – or MOZ as he is more commonly known. MOZ is the resident Disney haiku artist, painting magical images that bring Disney to life before our eyes. He has gained quite the following online and is now ready to share a little more of his story, revealing some of the mystery behind the MOZ.

For those unaware, Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry, usually concerning nature or the seasons, written in a single vertical line of seventeen sound units or “mora” (this does not strictly translate to syllables) in a rhythm of 5, 7, and 5. In English the ideas are usually expressed with a short line, a long line, and another short line, and use the 5|7|5 or 3|5|3 rhythm.

Traditionally, the haiku contains a word to demonstrate the feeling of a certain season. There are many words which are associated with each of the four seasons, so you do no not need to say ‘summer’, rather you can use words like warmth, vibrancy, sky, beaches, etc. Japanese haiku also uses “kireji” – a word which ‘cuts’ in forms the contrasting comparison of the poem and ends the thought, without straying too far from the original image described. You can see from this description how haiku reaches its goal of conveying feelings and emotions using the five senses, rather than just subjective words open to interpretation.

MoZ-logo-lo-res1MOZ has taken this history of haiku and mixed it with the rich tapestry of feelings one experiences with all things Disney, thus creating his Mouse of Zen haiku. The following interview will give you even more insight into the man behind the haiku and his heartwarming reasons for sharing them with the world. Please enjoy MOZ in his own words:

Tell us a little about the man behind the MoZ.

Well, I am 34 years old. I have been a Police Officer since 1998. I am passionate about a few things: my kids, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, Alabama Crimson Tide, and of course anything Disney! I went to Walt Disney World (WDW) a few times as a kid and on honeymoon in 2000. I always liked the parks but the passion was lit when I brought my kids for the first time in November 2006 when they were 1.5 and 3.5 years old. We returned in November 2007, April 2008, February 2009, and Sept 2009. I will never forget their facial expressions when they first saw the castle; that was the turning point for sure. The internet has also kept the fire burning with the various podcasts, very detailed websites, and now the blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

How did you become interested in poetry and haiku specifically? When did you first start writing haiku?

I always wrote as a kid and did tons of short stories. I wish I still had that notebook. I have always had a very creative mind and writing was my only outlet as I couldn’t sing or play musical instruments. I began working on a poetry book after 9/11 called Crime Scene Lyrics which was published in 2002. It consisted of over 100 poems and 205 haiku. For some reason, after the book came out, I never wrote anything afterward until I started the Mouse of Zen project in June 2009. Crime Scene Lyrics seemed like a sense of closure. The plan was to write several volumes of poetry, but that hasn’t happened yet. I have possible plans to continue that journey after Mouse of Zen comes out.

How did you come up with the name “Mouse of Zen”?

That’s a good question. I racked my brain for several months prior to starting the writing, trying to find the “right name.” I had settled with WDW In Haiku, but that never sat well with me. I wanted to have a title that would also relate to me as a “character,” so-to-speak. This would give readers not only a reference to the book by the title, but to me as well. Also, a lot of early Japanese haiku comes from a zen perspective and I wanted to incorporate that into the name somehow. Mouse of Zen got the point across that it was Disney-related and had a zen aspect to it. Plus, getting away from WDW in Haiku opened up options to include Disney movies and other various parks throughout the world as subject matter. I could also shorten the title to just MOZ and I think that is distinct enough to reference the project as a whole and is still easy to recognize. I am awaiting the official logo and it should be great!

mozhaiku2
What most inspires your Disney haiku? How do you decide what images or feelings to put into words?

I am mostly inspired by my kids and am writing this book and hopefully future follow-ups for them. I want them to have something special they can carry around with them to remember not only all our family park memories, but me as well as a father. I strive to be the best father I can be. That is really my only ambition in life. When I am long gone, I feel I will smile brightly knowing they might read these books to their kids at bedtime or even in the parks. I am trying to include as many attractions, movies, and characters as I can, but some of the subject matter will be hard to create a haiku I am happy with. For example, writing about Test Track, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, and Tomorrowland Speedway have been troublesome to date. I would love to take some “research” trips to Disneyland and the parks overseas for future haiku topics but at this time, limited funds don’t allow.
I am trying to make these haiku show the many different emotions humans can feel. Disney might just be the most romantic place out there but many might not consider that as an option. I try to show how romance connects with park & movie memories.

What is your favorite MoZ haiku to date?

That’s a tough question. I’m going to have to go with:

simple truth | not easy to find | seek magic

Why? Because I feel it has some mystery to it and displays the desire to never stop believing in magic.

Do you write any other type of haiku?

Currently, no. But I am logging haiku from Crime Scene Lyrics on Twitter. I have a few project ideas floating around about non-Disney haiku but not sure I want to take my time and focus away from the Mouse of Zen right now.

What’s your favorite Disney ride & memory?

I guess my favorite ride would have to be Soarin’. I think the reason is the ride gives very much the same feeling that hopefully my haiku sends to readers. It connects the audience to several types of emotions and senses and takes the mind off the outside world, if only temporarily.
I never had a specific favorite memory of WDW as a kid but have had several in taking my kids. Just listening to certain park audio brings those memories to life and that makes me smile.


What are your hopes for the future with MoZ?

First of all, I hope to find a publisher to back the project. I’m about 220 haiku in and am aiming for 300-350 for volume 1. Once I get to that point, I can start submitting the project to publishers. If I have no bites, I might have to go the self-publishing route and hope someone takes notice of the finished piece of work and signs me up.
I have a few other ideas for MOZ which I’m waiting for the right time to announce and implement. For starters, a website is being planned and once I have the completed MOZ logo, I have some merchandise ideas as well.

In closing MOZ shares:

I just hope I am bringing a little Disney magic to readers with every new haiku. That is very important to me and is why I am so picky about the haiku being “just right” before I post it for public viewing. I hope there is, and continues to be, an audience out there that looks forward to my continued work.



My favorite MOZ haiku

My favorite MOZ haiku

I couldn’t end this interview without sharing my favorite Mouse of Zen haiku to date. I loved it when I saw the words, but when I saw the accompanying image, I was transported back to my childhood once more. That is part of the treat of being a fan of Mouse of Zen on Facebook – exclusive images that bring the haiku to life. If you want to read and see the latest MOZ creations, be sure to add him on Twitter and Facebook and let him know what your favorites are.

Thank you to MOZ for this interview and for letting us get to know you a little better! Thank you too for the gifts you give us all each day and the legacy you are passing on to both your children and future Disney lovers everywhere. Keep up the wonderful work!





About Suzannah Otis

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Wife, Mom of 3, coffee addict, lover of travel and adventure.