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Bookstories 27: Robert Mainone’s An American Naturalist’s Haiku

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Unimaginable events brought me from the Detroit Zoological Park’s Education Division to what would become the Kalamazoo Nature Center as their first employee.

It was as KNC I discovered haiku in Harold G. Henderson’s An Introduction to Haiku and my need for it to express the inspiration I found in KNC’s Cooper’s Glen.

There is something beyond words in the open, ancient beech-maple woods that shades the glen and its sparkling trout stream.

When the KNC building, designed by a nationally known architect, was completed, more staff were hired. David Mohrhardt, a museum exhibit preparer from Michigan State University began work on a panorama of displays interpreting local natural history. Dave was also developing fliers informing schools and the public of programs being offered. Because of this, he was working with Bud Smetana, owner of Howard Printing Company in Kalamazoo.

Dave had looked through my field note book with its observations of plants, wildlife, sketches and the haiku I had written in and around Cooper’s Glen. He suggested that I have Bud Smetana, who was an art lover, print a chapbook of haiku from my first attempts in 1963.

From Howard Printing Co., Dave brought a variety of papers including cover stock and a sample book of Japanese papers.

I made a dummy copy of the chapbook by folding sheets of standard typing paper in half. The actual book would be smaller. Each haiku was typed on a 3” x 5” card and fixed to the dummy with a paper clip, alternating one and three per page. Rough sketches of my original drawings were folded in the dummy where they would appear on rice paper.

Bud had calculated the amount of each kind of paper and its price to give me a reasonable cost per book. He ordered the Japanese paper from Aiko’s, an art supply store in Chicago. We chose a plain font to match the simplicity of the haiku. Front and back covers would have a sumi-e-like illustration in black. The title, An American Naturalist’s Haiku, would appear in black on the upper left corner on the burnt-umber cover with Haiku set just below in bold red oriental-style lettering. The name of the author in small black letters was to go in the lower right corner.

I was so happy with the finished product I sent a copy to Harold G. Henderson, who had introduced me to haiku. I gave copies to staff and other friends. Some books were sold in the Kalamazoo Nature Center gift shop. On vacations they were distributed to libraries and book stores around Michigan.

I hope the reader will self-publish some of their own haiku books. They make fine gifts and can lead you to many wonderful people.

on the icy pond
like boys they’re playing
those three crows

—Robert F. Mainone

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