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


6 thoughts on “Alan Summers’ nightfall

    1. Thank you Lakshmi,

      I guess it’s the intenseness of an experience coupled with translating that into a poem.

      The ‘Common Blackbird’ has a most uplifting and inclusive song, and is a boost to anyone feeling sad. It can sing at any time, and I’ll never forget one early morning when I set out to work, before most people, and there was a lawn filled with blackbirds. That’s rare, you usually see them, or I have, as solo birds, or with their mate.

      warm regards,

      Liked by 1 person

  1. priscampbell

    Alan is such a creative writer. I enjoyed the perspectives on this haiku. Since I often imagine things in shadows I saw the key literally taking the imaginative shape of a blackbird as it darkens outside. I like the choice of blackbird and imagine them bringing in night by covering the sky with their wings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Pris!

      The ‘Common Blackbird’ which is a True Thrush, hence it’s mellifluous singing, is a truly uplifting experience. I’ve heard them as evening turns to night, and after a very late night out, where it is early morning, and only a few dayworkers (early shift) are starting out, and the blackbird song is clear as a bell and singing in the morning as well!

      warm regards

      Liked by 2 people

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