Antoinette Cheung

cherry blossoms . . .
we switch to
our mother tongue

Antoinette Cheung
Vancouver, British Columbia

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the Vancouver category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2023 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?

Thank you so much! I feel that my haiku journey has come full circle with this award, as I was reintroduced to haiku (beyond grade school poetry) after coming across the VCBF Haiku Invitational a few years ago. Since then, I have been writing haiku and dabbling in other types of Japanese short-form poetry (such as senryu, renku, and tanka), and connecting not only with local haiku poets but also poets from around the world. I am indebted to the members of the Vancouver Haiku Group for their generosity and support as I continue my haiku journey.

What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

This poem is a celebration of Vancouver’s cultural diversity. I think the coexistence of people representing so many different cultures is one of the city’s strengths. Growing up in an immigrant household, I felt a pull both to assimilate into western culture and to preserve my own. I recognize how fortunate I am to live in a place and time in which I am free to express both identities, and this poem is a tribute to that.

Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

I was actually on my way out and just decided to check my email to make sure I didn’t have anything pressing to address. I caught a glimpse of a new email with a subject line with “haiku” in it, and curiosity got the better of me, so I clicked into it. I was stunned to find out that I had won, and had to re-read the email a few times before it really sank in. It wasn’t until the next day that I shared the news with close family—my sister was particularly elated and was eager for the official announcement to come out so she could share the news wider!

Do you have favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?

I got my start with haiku from Michael Dylan Welch’s incredibly resourceful Graceguts website (, which I would highly recommend for introductory or background information for anyone who is newer to haiku. The Haiku Foundation also has many features that are great for easing into the form in an accessible way, including Julie Bloss Kelsey’s “New to Haiku” column (

Please tell us more about yourself.

I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada as a toddler, so much of my memories from childhood are based in Vancouver. My family has always placed a large emphasis on giving back to the community. Some of my recent volunteering work has included organizing fundraising events to support opera education in the city and serving on the board of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network to support their initiatives to create a secure future for people with disabilities. In my day job, I’m a researcher in the field of health economics and outcomes research, specializing in rare diseases.

How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?

I think the natural beauty of Vancouver, combined with its nicely laid out neighbourhoods that are conducive to long walks, creates an ideal environment for haiku inspiration. The added layer of living at one point in a multigenerational home has drawn me in the direction of writing more personal and family-oriented poems.

Haiku Invitational ↗

Return to the main page of the Haiku Invitational.

Meet Our 2022 Winners ↗

Meet our 2022 Haiku Invitational winners.

2022 Commentary ↗

Read the judges’ 2022 commentary for inspiration for your own haiku.

2023 Haiku Exhibition↗

Celebrate winning haiku with commissioned pieces by Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh artists.

More Haiku ↗

View additional categories of 2022 Sakura Awards and Honourable Mentions.

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