Kashiana Singh’s iris

regal iris
the purple scar
on my breast

Kashiana Singh (USA)


This is a moving haiku that I feel is a portal into many challenges we face as a community. 

The juxtaposition between the regal iris and the purple scar speaks volumes about sensitivity, hope, and healing. Like most flowers, the regal iris is delicate with a beautiful yellow/white design on the petals when it blooms. The delicate connection between the iris flower and the poet brings me hope and a feeling of unity between the poet, the flower, and the Earth. 

The purple scar in this haiku could be from many things. It could be from past physical/domestic abuse, breast cancer surgery, or an accident. My first impression is the poet had breast cancer surgery or a biopsy and is now recovering from the procedure. In this interpretation, I feel the regal iris provides hope and comfort while the poet is faced with a cancer diagnosis (or a potential cancer diagnosis if a biopsy was done). Unfortunately, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (source: FastStats – Leading Causes of Death (cdc.gov)) and according to the WHO (the World Health Organization), “In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer” (source: Breast cancer (who.int)). In my own family, my mother has friends who are breast cancer survivors. A combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and a positive attitude got them through the treatment until they were cancer-free. I truly believe their positive attitudes and support from family and friends made a real difference in their treatment and recovery. The scars remain but they are like the markings of a true warrior. 

When looking up the color purple in relation to cancer, I discovered: “What color is used for cancer awareness? A light purple or lavender ribbon often is used to represent all cancers as a whole.” Furthermore, “The purple ribbon is most commonly used to raise awareness for animal abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, domestic violence, epilepsy, lupus, sarcoidosis, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic cancer” (source: What color is used for cancer awareness? – Know Breast Cancer). This adds another layer of meaning in regard to the color purple in this haiku. I discovered The Mayo Clinic has a good article on breast cancer prevention and lowering the risks: Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk – Mayo Clinic.

Unfortunately, I also learned domestic abuse is surprisingly common in the U.S., according to an article in The Sun magazine: The Most Dangerous Place | By Tracy Frisch & Finn Cohen | Issue 537 | The Sun Magazine.

All this being said, this is a very touching haiku that speaks volumes about physical abuse, breast cancer, breast cancer recovery, sensitivity, hope, and healing. I greatly appreciate the poet’s vulnerability and hope her purple scar will bloom into much better days ahead. 

Jacob Salzer

Breast cancer is one topic that always remains sensitive and delicate like the disease itself. I have seen people sharing their personal experiences through poetry with some hope, light, and resilience and it is much needed to talk about this issue. In my country Pakistan, this issue recently got some attention as awareness programmes have been initiated by the government, which is a ray of hope for many people—especially women who avoid talking about this issue due to shaming, taboos, myths, or cultural barriers that ends up in a point of no return.

The regal iris is juxtaposed with a purple scar on the breast, which may be used in this poem for two reasons: firstly, the colour, structure, and delicacy that can be linked with breast cancer; secondly, the flower is a symbol of faith and courage. I can see more in it like the word ‘iris’ that is cleverly used in this haiku—maybe keeping in mind that it’s also a ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea and responsible for vision and sight. So, it may be how we perceive, interpret, and deal with breast cancer before and after treatment. Like I said earlier, there are many myths or taboos associated with breast cancer in my country. So, it depends on the perceptions of both the patient and the people in their surroundings.

The purple scar may indicate many perspectives but I will focus on three. First, it may indicate the initial or later stage of breast cancer where the breast gets purple due to the spread of the cancer virus. Second, it may indicate the treatment where the purple scar shows some healing—the slow one in this case. Third, it indicates the socio-cultural perspectives that bruise the life of a patient even if they survive it. Whatever the reason, I see hope and faith in this haiku due to the use of a regal iris that persuades us not to focus on other reasons and allows the life of the person to bloom again fully.

Hifsa Ashraf

I feel the poet used “regal” as both an adjective and as a possible term in taxonomy. Sometimes irises are referred to as regal flowers and even have names such as “prince iris, “queen iris,” and “his royal highness iris.” This may also vary across languages. These types of irises are most likely to be seen in the late spring gardens. So, you could place this haiku in late spring. This seems appropriate for the subject matter, where there is a sense of melancholy with the passing of spring.

For this haiku, there is no punctuation to emulate the kireji or cutting letter. However, the cut between the two parts of the haiku is clear. The fragment of the first line and the phrase of the last two lines are obviously delineated.

The comparison between the color of the iris and the poet’s scar has many implications, as Jacob and Hifsa have elucidated. The power of these two images side by side is that they interact, with beauty and tragedy interweaving. The result is a sort of unison.

This haiku is quite economical, being only eight words and 11 syllables. The lengths of the lines follow the standard for English-language haiku of a sort first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to model traditional Japanese haiku rhythm.

Looking at its sound, the Rs, Ss, and Ls stand out. There is a slant rhyme with “iris” and “breast” which brings a musical quality to the reading. The mood from the sound is somber but highly digestible.

With its color, imagery, sound, and societal relevance, this haiku has potent resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Irises, 1889, by Vincent van Gogh

Alan Summers’ nightfall

nightfall the key turns into a blackbird

Alan Summers (England, UK)

Publication credit:

First published: Blithe Spirit 31.4 (November 2021)


The Unseen Go-Between in Haiku by Alan Summers
Haiku Society of America Haiku Spotlight (January 2022)

Award Credit

Runner up: Museum of Haiku Literature
Blithe Spirit vol. 32 no. 1 (February 2022)


I appreciate the mystery (yugen) in this haiku and the possible interpretations. I initially felt a kind of fantasy-surrealism in this monoku. “The key” could be to a door, and if so, a door to what? Is the key a door that leads inside a physical building or room? Is it a key to a door that leads outside a building? Or, is this a key to a psychological door in the poet’s mind or within someone else’s psyche? In one interpretation, I get the feeling the key is turning and opening a locked door in the poet’s house leading outside. I like how the door does not need to be said in the monoku for me to imagine it.

I think “nightfall” effectively sets the tone and a mysterious atmosphere. I also think the double meaning of “turns” adds more depth to the monoku. Did the key physically turn into a blackbird? Or, did the poet open the locked door and simply saw a blackbird at night? Is the poet dreaming or daydreaming? Is this a monoku about the poet reading a fantasy novel? Did the door release a blackbird from a confined physical and/or mental space? Perhaps a limited physical room could symbolize a confined, limited mind or mental concept. When I see the key turn, I feel a door opening and the blackbird is released and disappears into the night. In that sense, perhaps the spirit of the blackbird is a key that opens the door to the Great Mystery/unseen dimensions of life and simultaneously opens the poet’s mind to a different way of seeing. 

If taken literally, I see the key transforming into a blackbird could symbolize how something that appears to be a concrete image (in this case, the key and the blackbird) is actually full of depth and mystery. It’s interesting how a single key can unlock possibilities and also lock a door and protect us from danger. I also get a sense that the blackbird is being honored and respected in this monoku, especially in relation to the night and the Great Mystery. I appreciate how this interpretation resonates with Indigenous spirituality. There are many Indigenous myths and legends about various birds. I also appreciate how this monoku expresses the beauty and importance of having an open mind. The poem encourages us to have the courage to see the world from different perspectives versus staying in our comfort zone and familiar ways of seeing and labeling. An intriguing and powerful monoku. 

 — Jacob Salzer

Nightfall is a shift in the day which brings mysteries with it. Symbolically, it unfolds a different world that manifests our true state of mind and heart. A time when we rarely see things through the lens of others and try to unfold our own stories. A time when we can fully concentrate on what matters the most in our lives. A time when certain realities are revealed to us through introspection or pondering.

Nightfall in this one-line haiku shows the vastness and significance of time, which motivates us to pause and imagine the scene that may look more inspirational and persuasive in this particular poem. The shift in the poem is the ‘key’ which reveals the mystery or unfolds the story; it can be the cognitive process that productively grasps the whole situation and gives flashbacks; it can be the meditative state of mind that unwinds the day’s fatigue by opening the doors of imagination or mysticism and brings some peace; it can be the solution to a problem when a person finds a creative solution and is able to find a way through critical thinking; or, it can be simply daydreaming when a person seeks solace in imagination and manifests their imagination in the most creative and surprising way, which looks magical in the end.

A blackbird symbolizes mystery, death, and magic but it is also significantly considered a sign of spiritualism or transformation. In this poem, nightfall transforms a person’s life where they can turn the key into something that looks more blissful and peaceful.

Overall, the poet challenges our senses to imagine and capture the vivid image of this poem and lets our creative faculties run wild and find how nightfall can spellbound us to see what we want to see or to see beyond seeing.

Hifsa Ashraf

The blackbird in England can be seen year-round. However, their mating season stretches from March up until July. So, perhaps this is a spring haiku. This relates well to the key possibly turning into a blackbird, as spring is a time of transformation. 

There is no kireji or cutting word in this monoku, which is common in English-language haiku that run as one line. There is a clear grammatical break after “nightfall,” though. 

However, you could say the haiku could be read as one flowing phrase, with “nightfall” being a verb that acts upon “the key.” Then, “turns” would be the second part of the haiku. 

“nightfall” also goes well with transformation as many things change during the night. Because of the darkness, things can be perceived differently. A person might imagine a key turning into a blackbird. A person might also imagine turning a key and going into an apartment or house and seeing a blackbird in the darkness. In this respect, the haiku might be speaking about human perception and its possible manipulation or trickery. I feel that the night, the key, and the blackbird are ultimately the same. 

This haiku is succinct with no word out of place. Also, the lovely soft sounds of the letter L contrasting with the sharp tick of the letter T make this haiku musical and layered.

A haiku that begs to be read over and over, it presents an abstract idea in a concrete sense.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Copyright: © Arte Ivanna

Adrian Bouter’s lakeside mist

lakeside mist
takes the shape of a heron
morning news                 

Adrian Bouter (the Netherlands)
(previously published in Wales Haiku Journal, spring 2022)


The heron is frequently used in haiku for its features, colour, style, and voice in association with people’s realities. The heron can symbolize stability, knowledge, wisdom, and tact, which can be observed in its natural habitat which is usually a lake. Lakeside views are scenic and vivid, and give an overall perspective that is often mesmerizing and mysterious.

Being a nature observer, the poet shows the comparison between lakeside mist with what’s going on with their life, where new and creative perspectives help to filter and understand information such as news. It’s quite meditative, where a person gets relief through living close to nature by not trying to overthink about their situation. It’s obvious to me that the lakeside mist is more symbolic in this situation, where it acts as a canvas where a person paints their feelings—or circumstances are not clear to them.

The shape of a heron shows the delicacy of the situation, which might demonstrate how a person seeks solace in escapism through imagination, assuming the situation is in their control. This also shows how creatively we can solve our problems by merely seeing different but interesting perspectives. Morning news may vary from person to person. In this situation, it looks more like unpleasant or mundane morning news that the poet was not expecting. 

Hifsa Ashraf

I appreciate the mystery (yugen) in this haiku. The lakeside mist evaporating and revealing the heron could mean the news is revealing things that were once hidden from view. On the other hand, I could also see the morning news is the mist evaporating. What is revealed is something as ancient as Mother Earth and the heron. 

I’ve noticed every time I see a heron, he/she is alone. It seems they spend much of their time in solitude looking for fish. I equated this with the poet who also spends much of their time alone with Nature in solitude. 

It seems the morning news on TV or in a newspaper is often filled with negative events. I wonder if this haiku is expressing the poet’s struggle to find a resolution to all the noise of the morning news. This haiku for me shows how Mother Earth and the heron provide peace and solace. The morning news seems to be telling the story of human civilization while Mother Earth tells Her stories without words or thoughts. However, I also like how morning news could be the news of something personal going on in the poet’s life. In that interpretation, it could be good news.

The evaporating mist is a beautiful image that depicts impermanence. I get the stark reminder that our lives and the morning news are, ultimately, as transient as lakeside mist. However, the most beautiful part about this haiku (for me) is the peace and solitude found in both the poet and the heron. I think this is a haiku that encourages us to find peace in the chaos—to discover the calm eye of the storm.

Regardless of our interpretations, this haiku uses sharp images, yet also gives space for us to experience the moment. A strong haiku with meditative, philosophical, and psychological undertones.

 —Jacob D. Salzer

Upon research, herons are quite common in the Netherlands and are often sighted in Amsterdam. It is hard to tell which seasonal reference or kigo this haiku provides, but I would place this perhaps in spring. I can imagine a spring mist on a lake and herons being ubiquitous in this season. This lends power to the phrase “takes the shape of a heron” as spring is a time of new things coming and forming.

There is strictly no kireji or cutting word in this haiku, but the line break in the second line does it enough justice. There is an apparent syntactical break from line two to line three.

The association between morning news and the lakeside mist taking the shape of a heron is intriguing, creating a strong sense of toriawase, or layered juxtaposition. The poet has done well not to make the association too far or too close in connection, which is the essence of the art of haiku.

The length of the lines or pacing of the haiku is standard for English-language haiku, where the first line is short, the second line is longer, and the third line is short. This format emulates the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku.

In terms of sound, my attention gets pulled toward the “i” and “o” sounds. The sharpness of the “i” contrasts well with the softness of the “o.”

Finally, this haiku follows the principles of brevity and simplicity in language. The feeling or mood of the haiku is easily accessible due to its language and flow. A wonderful haiku overall.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Mist Over the Lake by Shufu Miyamoto