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Haiku in Bulgaria

Bulgarian readers made contact with Japanese poetry through the French and German translations of Japanese poems. The first book of haiku, Palnolunie (Full Moon), translated from the original Japanese by Lyudmila Holodovich and Georgi Vasilev, appeared in 1985. The first collection of haiku by a Bulgarian poet, Dimitar Stefanov, appeared in 1988. The Bulgarian Haiku Club was founded in 2000 in Sofia, followed by the Haiku Club Plovdiv in 2004 and the Haiku Club Sofia (HCS) in 2005.

First Contacts

First contact with Japanese poetry was through the translation of Japanese lyrics from the German and French by Nikola Dzherov, in 1922, in a small book titled Сини часове. Японска лирика (Sini chasove. Yaponska lirika; Blue Hours. Japanese Lyrics); however, most poems featured in the book are from the 7th–9th century, predating the genre of haiku in Japan. In 1937, Dzherov published another selection of Japanese poems translated from French, called Песните на Ямато. Японска антология (Pesnite na Yamato. Yaponska antologiya; The Songs of Yamato: Japanese Anthology), which contains haiku of Bashō, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and others.

Сини часове (1922) and Песните на Ямато (1937)

Accordingly, Eastern poetry penetrated Bulgaria mainly through translations from other European languages (rather than directly from the Japanese sources) that were themselves heavily influenced by European literary traditions: in particular, German romanticism and French symbolism (with the latter leading to an inclination to symbolize the concrete Japanese imagery in Bulgarian translation), thus rendering a wrong idea of Japanese aesthetics.

The first book of haiku translated from the original Japanese appeared in 1985: Пълнолуние. Японски тристишия (Palnolunie. Yaponski tristishiya; Full Moon: Japanese Three-liners), translated by Lyudmila Holodovich and Georgi Vasilev. The foreword by Krum Atsev provided the first Bulgarian analysis of haiku, an in-depth attempt to introduce Bulgarian readers to the manner of thinking of the Far East and its way of seeing the world, with particular highlighting of the role of the unsaid as being constitutive of what makes a short poem a haiku. Following this, many books about Japanese culture appeared, the most important ones being the translations and culture studies of Bratislav Ivanov.

Affinities to Haiku

Bulgaria is situated between the West and the East, although, because it is “geo-poetically” closer to the West, the influence of Western aesthetics and cultural traditions have dominated. Nevertheless, Eastern attitudes are also integrated in Bulgarian consciousness and can be traced in Bulgarian poetry1

Нава (Nava) 1 (1990)

A type of haiku-like poetry called nava developed in Bulgaria. Originating in the 1980s and defined as “style at the crossroads”—that is, neither Eastern nor Western—nava is a form typically consisting of one to three lines, with the few words “not aim[ing] to say something, but rather to bring us beyond the words.”2 According to its creator, renowned Bulgarian poet Ivan Metodiev, “an almost entire freedom from rules is one of the main differences between nava and the classic versions of haiku.”3 While nava shares important features with haiku (related mainly to Zen and minimalism), it has roots in ancient Bulgarian traditions. Nava is an old Slavonic word. According to Metodiev, to achieve nava is “to inhale and exhale at the same moment.”4 Defined metaphorically in this way, nava denotes a going beyond dichotomies of any kind and perceiving the unity of the world. Thus, rather than constituting a genre, nava is more of a “universal principle” that can reveal itself in different genres. Any short poetic form, or even part of a longer form, can be a nava; haiku is just one of its possible forms. (In fact, all poets from the Nava circle published mainstream poetry as well.)

Here are two poems by Ivan Metodiev from the magazine Nava:

След всяка капка на дъжда—
различна тишина

Sled vsyaka kapka na dazhda— 
razlichna tishina 
After each raindrop—
different silence.
Мирис на облак.
Птиците чакат
с отворени човки.

Miris na oblak. 
Ptitsite chakat 
s otvoreni chovki 
Fragrance of cloud.
Birds are waiting
with open beaks

Although this short form was an integral part of Bulgarian poetry, it might also be considered as an alternative: in Petar Tchouhov’s assessment: “Extravagant and provocative, the nava movement was too eclectic; in the end, its foundations turned out to be philosophical, or even mystical rather than literary.”5

First Haiku in Bulgarian

In 1988, three years after the appearance of Palnolunie (Full Moon), the first translations of Japanese, the first collection of original haiku by a Bulgarian poet, Dimitar Stefanov’s Гората на глухарчето. Опити за хайку (Gorata na gluharcheto: Opiti za hayku; Attempts at Haiku), was published. Stefanov considered his short poems “attempts at haiku,” in that they followed the 17-syllable rule and the 5–7–5 structure and used concrete imagery and nature themes (though not in all cases). Importantly, Stefanov understood the genre as a form that can and should be adapted to the Western (in this case, Bulgarian) way of thinking and perception of the world, avoiding imitation of the Japanese masterpieces (and maintaining distance from traditional Japanese aesthetics).

Out of respect for Stefanov, many of the following “attempts at haiku,” by younger haiku poets, were marked with his understanding of Japanese aesthetics. The thrust of Stefanov’s book and the direction it gave to Bulgarian haiku is best illustrated by the epigram of the book, taken from an inscription on a column from Khan Omurtag, a 9th century Bulgarian ruler, expressing his sadness at the transitional and ephemeral character of life:

Човек и добре
да живее, умира
и друг се ражда

Chovek i dobre 
da zhivee, umira 
i drug se razhda 
Even if a man
lives well, he dies
and another is born

Even though in Bulgarian this fragment consists of 17 syllables and has a caesura in the middle (and so can be scanned according to the 5–7–5 scheme), at the level of artistry, it is very different from haiku (which typically implies emotion and idea through an image) and more like a Western aphorism. This was exactly the way young Bulgarian authors apprehended haiku at the beginning: the form and the emotions, but not the imagery and the techniques of haiku.

In 1990, a book of three-line poems by Edvin Sugarev appeared: Калейдоскоп: стихотворения (Kaleydoskop: stihotvoreniya; Kaleidoscope: Poetry). Although Sugarev did not define his poems as haiku, they were inspired by Zen and possessed some of the specific characteristics of haiku poetry. Here are three examples:

Селска черква
На двора редом
кръстове и минзухари

Selska cherkva 
Na dvora redom 
krastove i minzuhari 
Village church.
In the graveyard
crosses and crocuses
Тъмно е
ала мъждеят още
дивите божури под луната

Tamno e 
ala mazhdeyat oshte 
divite bozhuri pod lunata 
It’s dark
Only wild peonies
flicker under the moon
Сънувах поле с глухарчета
И вятърът
ме отвя

Sanuvah pole s gluharcheta 
I vyatarat 
me otvya 
I dreamt a dandelion field—
and the wind
blew me away6

The first Bulgarian haiku anthology, Дъждовни семена (Dazhdovni semena; Rain Seeds) edited by Dimitar Stefanov and including poems by 90 authors, was published in 2001 and proved important for popularizing haiku as a genre. Following the establishment of the Bulgarian Haiku Club in 2000, a series of thematic anthologies were published (see below).

Regarding the peculiarities of writing haiku in Bulgarian, Ludmila Balabanova’s 2014 book Хайку: Водно конче под шапката: Силата на неизговореното (Hayku: Vodno konche pod shapkata: Silata na neizgovorenoto; Haiku: Dragonfly under the Hat: The Power of the Unsaid) contains a chapter considering the artistic techniques used in Bulgarian haiku, with a special focus on the possibilities for adapting the rhythm and other characteristic features of haiku to the Bulgarian language. For instance, unlike other languages in which word order is strictly fixed, Bulgarian allows for great variation. Thus, introducing an element of surprise is more easily achieved when the place of a word can be freely moved in a sentence. Another feature is the wide use of diminutives in Bulgarian (as in other Slavic languages), which may not refer to the size of the denoted object, but rather expresses attitudes such as tenderness, irony, etc. This is important for Bulgarian haiku, as it provides opportunities to “say more” without words. On the other hand, Bulgarian is not as rich in synonyms and homonyms as Japanese and English, though this is balanced by its pliability. Balabanova holds that “unique haiku poetry can be created in Bulgarian by exploiting its peculiarities.”7

Haiku Organizations

The first organization of haiku poets, the Bulgarian Haiku Club (Български хайку клуб), was founded on September 14, 2000, when Jim Kacian of the U.S.A. and Dimitar Anakiev of Slovenia visited Bulgaria to help organize the haiku movement in the Balkans. The club’s first chairman was the translator and poet Dimitar Stefanov. Since 2008 the organization has been known as Bulgarian Haiku Union (BHU; Български хайку съюз).

In 2003, with the help of Stefanov the Haiku Club Plovdiv (Хайку клуб Пловдив; Hayku klub Plovdiv) was founded to provide a gathering space for poets from Plovdiv and Asenovgrad. Its president is Ivanka Yankova. The club’s activities are of great importance for the promotion of Japanese culture and haiku in the region around Bulgaria’s second-largest city. Members organize educational talks and haiku readings and promote meetings with prominent haiku poets and theorists of the genre. Haiku Club Plovdiv members have won honors in national and international haiku contests. The club is especially proud of its members’ anthology, Прагове / Thresholds (Pragove), edited by Todor Bikov in 2005.

The Haiku Club Sofia (HCS) was founded in 2005 by a group of professional writers, translators, and academics interested in haiku, many of whom enjoy recognition in Bulgaria and abroad.

Meetings and Exhibitions

The Haiku Club Sofia has held annual conferences since 2007. As a special guest, American professor David G. Lanoue attended the first conference, dedicated to the topic “Haiku and Western Poetry,” and presented a paper, “What does Silence Do in Poetry: Pushkin and Issa,” and read from the Bulgarian translation of his haiku novel Haiku Guy. Since then, Lanoue has participated in ten haiku conferences organized by the HCS and had six books translated into Bulgarian. Later conferences have explored a wide variety of topics:

  • “The World’s Haiku: A Challenge to the Literature of the 21st Century” (2008);
  • “Language and Consciousness in Haiku” (2009);
  • “Haiku: Image and Meaning” (2010);
  • “Haiku: Transcending Limits” (2011);
  • “Silence in Haiku” (2012);
  • “Reality and Imagination in Haiku” (2013);
  • “Haiku: The Open Door that Seems Closed” (2014);
  • “East–West: The Comprehensive Dialog” (2015);
  • “Haiku in the Urban Environment” (2016);
  • “Haiku: Reality and Reflections” (2017);
  • “Haiku: Western Perception of Eastern Spirituality” (2019).
5th International Haiku Conference: Transcending Limits, June 18–19, 2011, in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

The HCS conferences were organized in cooperation with various partners, among them New Bulgarian University, South West University in Blagoevgrad, Center for Eastern Languages and Cultures, Saint Kliment Ohridski Sofia University, and the Sofia City Library. The 2019 conference in 2019 was held during the Days of Eastern Art and Spirituality organized by Antoaneta Nikolova and departments of the Center for Eastern Languages and Culture. Selected presentations were published in Literaturen Vestnik and the ezine NotaBene. Guest speakers included David Lanoue, Doc Drumheller (New Zealand), Eva Kaminski (Poland), Graham Parkes (Austria), Marius Chelaru (Romania), Stefan Wolfschütz (Germany), Zinovy Vayman (Russia/U.S.A.). Charles Trumbull, retired editor of Modern Haiku, met with the group in Sofia in November 2012.

There have been many artistic events dedicated to haiku in Bulgaria. The first initiatives were by Petar Plamenov of the St. Kliment Ohridski Sofia University, who created unique haiku dramas and haiku performances, including “The Tree of Hot Desires” (2002), “Drunk Cherries” (2003), “The Road” (2005), “Invention of Hope” (2011, a combination of haiku, music, and dance). The multimedia show “Safe Needles,” staged by actress Maya Kisyova (script, direction, and performance) and Petar Tchouhov (haiku and music) in 2011, was presented in Bulgaria and at a haiku event in Moscow with a Russian translation by Nataly Levi. In 2016, Plamenov and Sofia Filipova, then president of the Bulgarian Haiku Union, held a conference on the theme “Wind Bearers—Aesthetics and Philosophy of Haiku Poetry.”

Exhibitions of haiga, photo haiga, installations related to haiku, ikebana on haiku, calligraphy, and so forth have been organized as side shows or stand-alone events. Headliners have included Radostina Dragostinova, Dilyana Georgieva, Alexandra Ivoylova, Antonina Karalambeva, Zornitza Harizanova, Iliana Ilieva, Maya Lyubenova, Violeta Penushlieva, Vessislava Savova, Elisaveta Shapkareva, Iliyana Stoyanova, and Alexander Telalim. The exhibitions and demonstrations of sumi-e (black-ink brush drawings) by Detelina Tiholova deserve special mention.


Thematic haiku contests have been organized by the Bulgarian Haiku Union every year at least since 2015. The Bulgarian Haiku Union has held the International Cherry Blossom Haiku Contest in conjunction with the Ohanami Spring Festival held in South Park, Sofia, and with the additional support of groups such as the Friends of Japan in Bulgaria, the Urasenke Tankokai Tea Ceremony School, the Bonsai Club, and the Soga Ikebana Association.

Art installation in the South Park, Sofia: As part of the festival Ohanami cherry trees were decorated with the winning haiku from the contest – Ohanami, April 10, 2016

Since 2008 Haiku Club Sofia has sponsored an annual haiku contest with no fixed theme, the results of which are announced at their yearly conference.

Assisted by the Bulgarian Haiku Union, Bulgarian children have participated, and received awards, in the JAL Foundation Annual World Children’s Haiku Contest, Japan.


Haiku Journals

Cover of the first issue of
Хайку свят (Haiku World), 2013

The journal of the BHU is titled Хайку свят (Haiku World; Hayku svyat). The editors-in-chief are Sofia Filipova and Iliana Ilieva. In addition to haiku and related forms, the journal publishes theoretical articles on the aesthetics of haiku. Founded in 2013, Hayku svyat has published four issues.


The Bulgarian Haiku Club published several anthologies (the first one being the already mentioned Rain Seeds in 2001). Subsequent anthologies published by the Bulgarian Haiku Club were organized thematically as reflected in their titles: Tsveteto (The Flower, 2002), Ptitsata (The Bird, 2003)—both mentioned above)—Розата (Rozata, 2003; The Rose), and Пътят (Patyat, 2004; The Road). Patyat included poets from abroad, several of whom were authoritative figures on the international haiku scene.

By the time three other anthologies of Bulgarian haiku appeared—Цветето (Tsveteto, 2002; The Flower) edited by Ginka Biliarska, and Птицата (Ptitsata, 2003; The Bird), edited by Stefanov as well as the trilingual anthology Огледала (Ogledala) / Mirrors / Miroirs, edited in 2005 by haiku poet Ludmila Balabanova (then president of Haiku Club Sofia)—most of the authors included in these books had mastered the main artistic devices of the haiku genre. A haiku by Alexandra Ivoylova from Mirrors:

Далече из нощта просвирва влак.
В стаята съм
с книга върху коленете.

Daleche iz noshta prosvirva vlak. 
V stayata sam 
s kniga varhu kolenete 
A night train’s far whistle.
I’m in the room
with a book on my knees.8
Cover of Mirrors, 2005
Petar Tchouhov and Ludmila Balabanova at the launch of Mirrors in 2005

Mirrors is one of the most representative anthologies of Bulgarian haiku published to date. It is a trilingual volume (with all Bulgarian haiku appearing alongside English and French translations) featuring poems not only by members including Aksinia Mikhailova, Antoaneta Nikolova, Petar Tchouhov, and Zdravko Karakehayov but also other Bulgarian authors, including Alexandra Ivoylova, Dimitar Anakiev, Dimitar Stefanov, and Edvin Sugarev.

HCS member of Petar Tchouhov edited a haiku page “A Fly in the Medicine Cabinet” in Literaturen Vestnik (Литературен Вестник; Literary Newspaper) for several years, presenting works by American and British poets.

Web Activities

In 2011 Maya Lyubenova, together with a group of volunteers, translated Bare Bones School of Haiku, by the American poet and critic Jane Reichhold, with the translation posted later online9. This online availability was much appreciated by the wider public who were encouraged have a set of rules to help them along the path to haiku.

Members of the Shoshin group in Sofia, 2017:
(from left) Milena Veleva, Dilyana Georgieva, Iliyana Stoyanova, Vessislava Savova, and Tzetzka Ilieva.

Bulgarian poets who had joined international haiku organizations and attended their workshops realized the need for internet platforms that would provide information and stimulate the development of haiku on an ongoing basis. The Bulgarian Haiku Union and Haiku Club Sofia were concentrating their efforts on organizing conferences, translating, writing, and international cooperation. Their initiatives, popular in the capital, were often hard to attend for authors from other cities or the many Bulgarians living outside the country. As a response, in the second half of 2012, the internet group Шошин / Shoshin was created. (Shoshin 初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism, meaning “beginner” or “beginner’s mind.”) By 2020, the group had 97 members who took advantage of a forum where new authors could meet and discuss their poems with more experienced colleagues, Many BHU members are also part of Shoshin.

As a natural extension of the work of the group participants, and with the intention to reach a larger audience, in 2014 Tzetzka Ilieva founded Диви Люляци—Wild Lilacs, а blog for contemporary Bulgarian haiku10. The blog initially published one haiku per week by a Bulgarian author, but it has since expanded to feature haiga (haiku with a drawing or photo) and renku (collaborative linked verse), interviews and contests, work by young authors, and poems in translation. Special pages were created for the 1st and 2nd Bulgarian Kukai, held in 2015, and links to other online kukai were given. In fact, Bulgarian authors enjoy the challenge of participating in other online kukai, the European Quarterly Kukai, and the Indian Kukai. Among the successful participants have been Pepa Odjakova, who placed in several iterations of the Indian Kukai from 2015 to 2018, and Radka Mindova and Stoianka Boianova, who were also recognized in the Indian Kukai in 2018.

Haiku are included on the pages of Литературен Вестник (Literaturen Vestnik; Literary Newspaper) both the print and online editions.11 The publication is the organ of the Bulgarian Society of Publishers in Humanities, which views Bulgarian literature as a bridge between East and West. The first editor-in-chief was Edvin Sugarev, who is, among many other literary and political accomplishments, a haiku poet. The editor in 2020 was Amelia Licheva. The literary ezine LiterNet12 publishes single haiku and short collections of work by Bulgarian haikuists, often in English as well as Bulgarian.

The International Face of Bulgarian Haiku

International Conferences

Bulgarian haiku poets and theorists have been participating in international haiku conferences and festivals beginning in the early 2000s, including:

Awards and Contests

Haiku, haiga, haibun, and tanka by Bulgarian poets have received awards and prizes at international contests, including:

  • Akita International Haiku Network Contest (Akita, Japan)—Lilia Racheva, Honorable Mention, 2019
  • Bashō Memorial English Haiku Contest (Iga, Japan)—Ludmila Balabanova, prize, 2004;
  • Ueno Bashō Festival Contest (Tokyo, Japan)—Petar Tchouhov, the top prize, 2008
  • Genjuan International Haibun Contest (Kyoto, Japan)—Maya Lyubenova, Honorable Mention, 2013; Daniela Kuzmanova, Honourable Mention, 2014
  • Haiku International Association Haiku Contest (Tokyo, Japan)—Petar Tchouhov, Honorable Mention, 2009; Stanka Boneva, 1st Prize, 2013;
  • Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards—Ludmila Balabanova, Best Haibun Book, 2020;
  • International Haiku Festival Contest (Constanța, Romania)—Ludmila Balabanova, 1st Prize, 2013; Petar Tchouhov, 3rd Prize, 2013;
  • Kloštar Ivanić International Contest for Haiku in English (Ivanić-Grad, Croatia)—Antonina Karalambeva, 2006, 3rd Prize;
  • Kusamakura Haiku Competition (Kumamoto, Japan)—Nadia Naidenova, 3rd Prize, 2006 and (as Nadia Naidenova-Syrma) 2nd Prize, 2009; Tanya Dikova, 3rd Prize, 2006 and 2016; Maya Lyubenova, 3rd Prize, 2012; Lyudmila Hristova, Kumamoto “City of Artesian Waters” Haiku Award, 3rd Prize, 2016; Hristina Pandjaridis, 3rd Prize, 2014; Maya Kisyova, 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize, 2014; Diana Petkova, 3rd Prize, 2016; Iliyana Stoyanova, 3rd Prize; 2017
  • Ludbreg International Haiku Contest (Ludbreg, Croatia)—Petar Tchouhov, 3rd Prize, 2008;
  • Mainichi Haiku Contest—Stanka Boneva, 2nd Prize, 2013;
  • R. H. Blyth Award (World Haiku Club, Oxford, England)—Radka Mindova, Haiku of Merit, 2019;
  • Sharpening the Green Pencil Haiku Contest (Romania)—Vania Stefanova, Commendation, 2014; Gergana Yaninska, Selected Poem, 2017;
  • Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems (The Haiku Foundation)—Tanya Dikova, Shortlist, 2018;
  • Touchstone Distinguished Books Award (The Haiku Foundation)—Ludmila Balabanova, Honorable Mention, 2016, and 2019, winner;
  • Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Contest (Vancouver, Canada)—Lilia Racheva Dencheva, Honourable Mention, 2019; Radostina Dragostinova, Honourable Mention, 2018; Zornitza Harizanova, Honorable Mention, 2014 and International Sakura Awards, 2017; Vladislav Hristov, Honourable Mention, 2011; Vessislava Savova, International Sakura Awards, 2014; Vania Stefanova, Honourable Mention, 2012; Iliyana Stoyanova, Honourable Mention, 2015, International Sakura Award, 2016, and Honourable Mention, 2017;
  • Wild Plum Haiku Contest (Poland)—Tsanka Shishkova, Honorable Mention, 2018.

Print and Online Periodicals

More and more Bulgarian poets can be found in international print and online periodicals. Most of these periodicals are based in Anglophone countries, for example Acorn, Akitsu Quarterly, Blithe Spirit, Cattails, Contemporary Haibun Online, Failed Haiku, Frogpond, Haibun Today, A Hundred Gourds, Lynx, Modern Haiku, Notes from the Gean, Presence, Prune Juice, Simply Haiku, Sketchbook, Skylark: A Tanka Journal, The Bamboo Hut, The Heron’s Nest, The Other Bunny, and Under the Bashō. But journals in other countries have also offered a home to Bulgarian work. These include Chrysanthemum (Germany), Whirligig (The Netherlands), Ершик (Ershik, Russia), and World Haiku (Japan). Many Bulgarian authors regularly appear on the pages of the newsletter Haiku Novine edited in Niš, Serbia, by Dragan Ristić.

Bulgarian authors have become increasingly interested in hybrid haikai forms, such as haibun. Ludmila Balabanova, Darina Deneva, Aleksandra Ivoylova, Daniela Kuzmanova, Maya Lyubenova, Elisaveta Shapkareva, Petar Tchouhov, and Vessislava Savova all publish haibun in Bulgarian and foreign print and online magazines. In 2005, Dimitar Stefanov published the first book of Bulgarian haibun, Невидимости (Nevidimosti; Invisibilities), and Ludmila Balabanova’s book Слънчогледова нива. Хайбун / Sunflower Field: Haibun (2019; Slanchogledova niva: haybun) received a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award and an HSA Merit Book Award in 2020.

The first Bulgarian renku, was published (in English) in the June issue of World Haiku Review (2015). Капризи / Whimsies (Kaprizi), the first book of rengay (a six-stanza linked-verse form for two or three poets), was published by Dilyana Georgieva and Vessislava Savova in 2018. The first publications of Bulgarian horror haiku appeared in Dracus and Scifikuest magazines. Zdravko Karakehayov’s Вятърни мелници / Windmill Sails (Vyatarni melnitsi) is another interesting variation on haiku: the book contains cycles of three haiku on a single theme—a “3D” picture made up of three images.

Individual Collections in Multiple Languages

Publications for this period included a number of notable bilingual books, for example, Прашинки в слънчевия лъч / Motes in the Sunbeam (2007; Prashinki v slancheviya), 33 haiku by Ludmila Balabanova with English text edited by David Lanoue; Парченца синьо / Flecks of blue / (2010; Parchentsa sin’o), 92 haiku by Maya Lyubenova; Безопасни игли / Safety Pins (2010; Bezopasni igli), 55 haiku by Petar Tchouhov; and Майска утрин / May Morning (2014; Mayska utrin), by Maya Kisyova.

Multilingual Bulgarian Anthologies

One of the earliest multilingual haiku anthologies to be published in Bulgaria was Градът / La ville (Gradat; The City, 2012), edited by Aleksandra Ivoylova, which brought together haiku by Bulgarian and francophone poets.

The Bulgarian- and Hungarian-language anthology of Bulgarian haiku Más-más csönd: bolgár haikuantológia / Различна тишина: Антология на българското хайку (A Different Silence: Bulgarian Haiku Anthology), compiled by Petar Tchouhov, and also published in 2012, included 159 haiku from 55 Bulgarian authors born between 1932 and 1993. Included were haiku not only of well-known poets, but also of new authors including Detelina Tiholova, Lyudmila Hristova, and Radka Mindova.

A trilingual haiku collection titled Matchbox Boats / Кибритени лодки / Лодки из спичечных коробков (Kibriteni lodki) in English, Bulgarian, and Russian was published in 2014 by Dilyana Georgieva, Darina Deneva, and Vessislava Savova.

Прегръдки за непознати / Free Hugs to Strangers (Pregradki za nepoznati), edited by Tchouhov, presented haiku in Bulgarian and English written during the ginkō after the 2016 HCS conference.

In 2018, in a joint project of the Bulgarian Haiku Union, the Haiku Club Plovdiv and the British Haiku Society, the bilingual anthology Отвъд думите / Beyond Words (Otvad dumite) was published. It includes contributions by Bulgarian and British poets. The bilingual collection Божури (Bozhuri) / Peonies, published in 2019, edited by Iliyana Stoyanova, includes 57 haiku by women poets from 24 countries.

Launch of the bilungual haiku anthology Beyond Words / Отвъд думите on December 18, 2018, in Sofia; from left: Ivanka Yankova, Stoianka Boianova, Zornitza Harizanova, Iliyana Stoyanova, Iliyana Deleva, Dilyana Georgieva, Vessislava Savova, and Frank Williams.

Collectively, books such as these demonstrated that their authors had done away with received compositional restrictions such as careful syllable counting, use of initial capital letters and full stops, and reliance on direct metaphors and simile; instead, they wrote their haiku using modern haiku techniques and concrete imagery.

Anthologies Published Outside Bulgaria

Meanwhile, haiku by Bulgarian poets were more and more frequently being included in haiku anthologies published outside Bulgaria. Here is a partial list of anthologies and poets whose work was included (see the Sources section for full citations):

  • D’un ciel a l’autre: Anthologie de haïkus de l’Union Européenne / From One Sky to Another: Haiku Anthology of the European Union (2006)—Aksinia Mikhailova, Ludmila Balabanova;
  • Jim Kacian, and Dee Evetts, eds, A New Resonance 5: Emerging Voices in English-language Haiku (2007)—Petar Tchouhov;
  • Masaharu Hirata, ed, Haiku Friends: Vol. 2 (2007)—Ludmila Balabanova;
  • Masaharu Hirata, ed., Haiku Friends: Vol. 3 (2009)—Ludmila Balabanova;
  • Diederik De Beir, and Ip Man, eds., Het Zilvervisje glimt / Silver Fry Flicker: Anthology for Haiku in Gent in Haiku (2010)—Ludmila Balabanova, Zdravko Karakehayov;
  • Jane E. Reichhold, AHA The Anthology: Collected Works of AHAforum Members, Volume 1 (2012)—Maya Lyubenova, Tzetzka Ilieva;
  • Dimitar Anakiev, compiler, Kamesan’s World Haiku Anthology on War, Violence and Human Rights Violation (2013)—Dimitar Stefanov, Ludmila Balabanova, Maya Lyubenova, Rositza Pironska, Tzetzka Ilieva, Zdravko Karakehayov;
  • Ingo Cesaro, ed., Im Ohr… dein Schweigen (2013)—Ludmila Balabanova, Petar Tchouhov
  • Marlène Buitelaar, ed., The Scent of Music: Haiku with a Touch of Music (2013)—Ginka Biliarska, Ludmila Balabanova;
  • Nicolițov, Valentin, ed.. Haiku Antologie internaţională 2013 (International Haiku Anthology 2013)—Alexandra Ivoylova, Ludmila Balabanova, Petar Tchouhov, Zdravko Karakehayov;
  • Sonam Chhoki, Geography and Creative Imagination (tanka anthology, 2014)—Hristina Pandjaridis, Vessislava Savova;
  • M. Kei, Bright Stars 2: An Organic Tanka Anthology (2014)—Vessislava Savova;
  • Robert Kania, Krzysztof Kokot, Lidia Rozmus, and Charles Trumbull, eds., Antologia Haiku: Druga Międznarodowa Konferencja Haiku / Haiku Anthology: Second International Haiku Conference (2015)—Iliyana Stoyanova, Ludmila Balabanova, Minko Tanev, Stoianka Boianova, Svetla Pacheva-Karabova, Zdravko Karakehayov;
  • Diederik De Beir, and Ip Man, eds., Duizend Kraanvogels (2015)—Ludmila Balabanova, Zdravko Karakehayov;
  • Bruce Ross, Kōko Katō, Dietmar Tauchner, and Patricia Prime, eds., A Vast Sky: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku (2015)—Iliana Ilieva, Ludmila Balabanova, Petar Tchouhov;
  • Kala Ramesh, Sanjuktaa Asopa, and Shloka Shankar, eds., Naad Anunaad: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku (2016)—Iliyana Stoyanova, Maya Lyubenova, Tzetzka Ilieva;
  • Robert Epstein, ed, They Gave Us Life: Celebrating Mothers, Fathers & Others in Haiku (2017)—Ludmila Balabanova;
  • Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, and Kala Ramesh, eds, Wishbone Moon (2018)—Darina Deneva, Iliyana Stoyanova;
  • Robert Epstein, ed, All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku (2019)—Diana Teneva, Minko Tanev, Radostina Dragostinova, Stoianka Boianova;
  • The Red Moon Anthologies—Diana Teneva in the 2013 and 2014 editions, Ludmila Balabanova in 2007 (as well as her essay “Metaphor and Haiku” in 2008), and Petar Tchouhov in 2005, 2007, and 2008);
  • The members’ anthologies of the World Haiku Association, the British Haiku Society, and the Haiku Society of America.

As samples of Bulgarian haiku included in international anthologies, here is Iliana Ilieva’s verse from A Vast Sky:

ябълки бера
все повече светлина
из празнотата

yabalki bera
vse poveche svetlina
iz praznotata

picking apples 
more and more light 
into emptiness 

and one by Maya Lyubenova from Kamesan’s World Haiku Anthology on War, Violence and Human Rights Violation:

Ден на Хирошима—
под стъпалата ми

Den na Hiroshima—
pod stapalata mi

Hiroshima day …
a dandelion clock
at my feet

The Bulgarian haiku tradition is young, but it is developing very quickly, thanks to the rich tradition in the field of short poetic forms. Today haiku in Bulgaria has its powerful examples, which have found recognition in the most prestigious magazines, anthologies, and awards in the world.

Sources / Further Reading (Print)

History, Criticism, and Haiku Composition

  • Balabanova-Karakehayova, Ludmila Verter. Силата на неизговореното в поетичния текст и максималното и проявление в хайку / Power of the Unsaid in the Poetic Text and its Ultimate Expression in Haiku”). Sofia: Institute of Literature, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2012. PhD dissertation. In Bulgarian.
  • Balabanova, Ludmila. “Between the West and the East.” World Haiku Association, ed., World Haiku 2005 (2004), 95–104. 
  • Balabanova, Ludmila. Хайку: Водно конче под шапката: Силата на неизговореното (Hayku: Vodno konche pod shapkata: Silata na neizgovorenoto; Haiku: Dragonfly under the Hat: The Power of the Unsaid). Sofia: Boyan Penev Publication Center of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2014. In Bulgarian.
  • Cesaro, Ingo, ed. Im Ohr … dein Schweigen (In My Ear … Your Silence). Kronach, Germany: Nue Cranach Presse, 2013.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav. “Хайку класическо и съвремено” (Hayku—klasichesko i savremeno; Haiku Classical and Modern). Bratislav Ivanov, ed. and trans., Съвременно хайку (Savremenno hayku; Modern Haiku) (2005).
  • Ivanov, Bratislav. Митология на Япония (Mitologia na Yaponiya; Mythology of Japan). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2017.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav. Японската религия (Yapanska religiya; Japanese Religion). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2014.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav. Японската религия (Japanese religion). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2014.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav. Японската цивилизация (Yapanska tsivilizatsiya; Japanese Civilization). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2013.
  • Metodiev, Ivan, editor. Нава (Nava). Literary journal. 4 annual issues published: 1990–1994.
  • Nikolova, Antoaneta. Езикът на пустотата (Ezikat na pustotata; The Language of the Void). Sofia: Foundation-for-Bulgarian-lit, 2003.
  • Sugarev, Edvin. “The Bulgarian Haiku.” English text by Edvin Sugarev & Jack Galmitz. Ban’ya Natsuishi, ed., World Haiku No. 2 (2006), 85–92.

Anthologies and Collections of Haiku Translations

  • Anakiev, Dimitar, comp. Kamesan’s World Haiku Anthology on War, Violence and Human Rights Violation. Templeton, Calif.: Kamesan Books, 2013. 903 haiku by 435 poets from 48 countries.
  • Beary, Roberta, Ellen Compton, and Kala Ramesh, eds. Wishbone Moon. Durham, N.C.: Jacar Press, 2018. 242 haiku by 106 women poets.
  • Bikov, Todor, ed. Прагове / Thresholds (Pragove). Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Klub na deyshtite na kulturata—Plovdiv / Hayku klub Plovdiv, 2005. Anthology of the work of 16 members of the Haiku Club Plovdiv in Bulgarian and English.
  • Biliarska, Ginka, ed. Пътят (Patyat; The Road). Sofia: Atelie AB, 2004.
  • Biliarska, Ginka, ed. Розата (Rozata; The Rose). Sofia: Atelie AB, 2003.
  • Biliarska, Ginka, ed. Цветето (Tsveteto; The Flower). Sofia: Atelie AB, 2002.
  • Buitelaar, Marlène, ed. The Scent of Music: Haiku with a Touch of Music. Introduction by Marlène Buitelaar and Max Verhart. ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Neth.: 2013. 194 haiku by 145 poets.
  • D’un ciel a l’autre: Anthologie de haïkus de l’Union Européenne / From One Sky to Another: Haiku Anthology of the European Union. Seichamps, France: Édition Association Française de Haïku, 2006. 221 haiku by 66 poets from 16 countries of the European Union.
  • De Beir, Diederik, and Ip Man, eds. Duizend Kraanvogels. Ghent, Belgium: Viadagio, 2015. Anthology of the 2nd International Haiku Festival, Ghent.
  • De Beir, Diederik, and Ip Man, eds. Het Zilvervisje glimt / Silver Fry Flicker: Anthology for Haiku in Gent in Haiku. Ghent, Belgium: Viadagio, 2010. Haiku by 32 participants in the International Haiku Festival in Ghent in four languages.
  • Dzherov, Nikola, ed. and trans. Песните на Ямато. Японска антология (Pesnite na Yamato. Yaponska antologiya; The Songs of Yamato: Japanese Anthology). Sofia: Koraki, 1937.
  • Dzherov, Nikola, ed. and trans. Сини часове. Японска лирика (Sini chasove. Yaponska lirika; Blue Hours. Japanese Lyrics). Sofia: Koraki, 1922.
  • Epstein, Robert, ed. All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku. West Union, W.Va.: Middle Island Press, 2019.
  • Epstein, Robert, ed. They Gave Us Life: Celebrating Mothers, Fathers & Others in Haiku. West Union, W.Va.: Middle Island Press, 2017.
  • Hirata, Masaharu, ed. Haiku Friends: Vol. 2. Osaka, Japan: Umeda Printing, 2007. Haiku by 22 poets from around the world
  • Hirata, Masaharu, ed. Haiku Friends: Vol. 3. Fukushima, Japan: Umeda Printing, 2009. Haiku by 19 poets from around the world.
  • Holodovich, Lyudmila, and Georgi Vasilev, trans. Пълнолуние. Японски тристишия. (Palnolunie. Yaponski tristishiya; Full Moon: Japanese Three-liners). Sofia: Nauka i iskustvo, 1985.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav, ed. and trans. Съвременно хайку (Savremenno hayku; Modern Haiku). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2005. In Japanese and Bulgarian.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav, trans. Йоса Бусон, 100 хайку (Yosa Buson, 100 hayku; Yosa Buson: 100 Haiku). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2016.
  • Ivanov, Bratislav, trans. Мацуо Башьо, 100 хайку (Matsuo Bash’o, 100 hayku; Matsuo Bashō: 100 Haiku). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2012.
  • Kacian, Jim, and Dee Evetts, eds. A New Resonance 5: Emerging Voices in English-language Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2007. 15 haiku each by Petar Tchouhov, et al.
  • Kania, Robert, Krzysztof Kokot, Lidia Rozmus, and Charles Trumbull, eds. Antologia Haiku: Druga Międznarodowa Konferencja Haiku / Haiku Anthology: Second International Haiku Conference. Kraków, Poland: Museum Manggha, 2015. In Polish, English, and contributing poets’ languages.
  • Kei, M. Bright Stars 2: An Organic Tanka Anthology. No place: Published privately (CreateSpace), 2014. Tanka by Vessislava Savova et al.
  • Nicolițov, Valentin, ed. Greiri și crizanteme: Haiku antologie internatională / Crickets and Chrysanthemums: International Haiku Anthology. Bucharest: Editura Orion, 2007.
  • Nicolițov, Valentin, ed. Haiku Antologie internaţională 2013 (International Haiku Anthology 2013). Bucharest: Editura Societăţii Scriitorilor Romăni, 2013. Participants’ anthology of the 7th International Haiku Festival, Constanța, Romania. In Romanian, French, and English.
  • Ramesh, Kala, Sanjuktaa Asopa, and Shloka Shankar, eds. Naad Anunaad: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku. Pune, India: Vishwakarma Publications, 2016. 738 haiku by 230 poets.
  • Reichhold, Jane E. AHA The Anthology: Collected Works of AHAforum Members (Volume 1). Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 2012.
  • Ross, Bruce, Kōko Katō, Dietmar Tauchner, and Patricia Prime, eds. A Vast Sky: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku. Bangor, Maine: Tancho Press, 2015. 526 haiku.
  • Stefanov, Dimitar, ed. Дъждовни семена (Dazhdovni semena; Rain Seeds). Sofia: Haini, 2001. Anthology of haiku by 90 poets.
  • Stefanov, Dimitar, ed. Птицата (Ptitsata; The Bird). Sofia: Haini, 2003.
  • Stoyanova, Iliyana, ed. Peonies: Haiku Anthology / Божури: хайку антология. Sofia: Printed privately (Direct Services Ltd), 2019. In English, Bulgarian, and poets’ native language. Haiku by 57 poets from 24 countries.
  • Tchouhov, Petar, ed. and preface. Más-más csönd: bolgár haikuantológia / Различна тишина: Антология на българското хайку (A Different Silence: Bulgarian Haiku Anthology). Translated into Hungarian by Szondi György. Budapest: Napkút Kiadó, 2012.
  • Tchouhov, Petar, ed. Прегръдки за непознати / Free Hugs to Strangers (Pregradki za nepoznati). Sofia: Stolichna Biblioteka, 2016.
  • Yankova, Ivanka, Aleksandra Ivoylova, and Zornitza Harizanova, eds. Отвъд думите: Хайку антология / Beyond Words: Haiku Anthology. Sofia: Farago, 2018. Haiku by 37 members of the British Haiku Society and 83 Bulgarian poets.

Individual Collections

  • Balabanova, Ludmila, selector and editor. Огледала / Mirrors / Miroirs. Translated into English by Ludmila Balabanova and into French by Aksinia Mikhailova. Sofia, Bulgaria: LCR Publishers, 2005. 101 Bulgarian haiku.
  • Balabanova, Ludmila. Пръшинки в слънчевия лъч: хайку / Motes in the Sunbeam: Haiku (Prashinki v slancheviya lach: hayku). English translations by Ludmila Balabanova and David Lanoue. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Jannette 45, 2007.
  • Balabanova, Ludmila. Роса върху бурените / Dewdrops on the Weeds: haiku. Sofia – London: Small Stations Press, 2016.
  • Balabanova, Ludmila. Слънчогледова нива. Хайбун / Sunflower Field: Haibun. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Zhanet 45, 2019.
  • Georgieva, Dilyana, and Vessislava Savova. Капризи / Whimsies. Edited and with an introduction by David G. Lanoue and an afterword by Iliyana Stoyanova. Vratsa, Bulgaria: BG-PRINT, 2018. In Bulgarian and English.
  • Georgieva, Dilyana, Darina Deneva, and Vessislava Savova. Кибритени лодки / Matchbox Boats / Лодки из спичечных коробков. Sofia: Pergament, 2014. In Bulgarian, English, and Russian.
  • Ivoylova, Alexandra, ed. Градът / La ville (Gradat; The City). Sofia: Farago, 2012. In Bulgarian and French.
  • Karakehayov, Zdravko. Вятърни мелници / Windmill Sails (Vyatarni melnitsi). Sofia: Privately published, 2019.
  • Kisyova, Maya. Майска утрин / May Morning (Mayska utrin). Sofia: Iztok–Zapad, 2014.
  • Lanoue, David [Дейвид Ланю]. Човекът, който пишеше хайку (Chovekat, koyto pisheshe hayku; The Guy Who Writes Haiku). Translated by Svetla Hristova. Sofia: Iztok-Zapad, 2007. Bulgarian translation of Lanoue’s Haiku Guy (2000).
  • Lyubenova, Maya. Flecks of Blue / Парченца синьо: An English-Bulgarian Haiku Collection (Parchentsa sin’o). Edited by Vladislav Hristov. Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria: ARS, 2010. 92 haiku in English and Bulgarian.
  • Stefanov, Dimitar, ed. Невидимости (Nevidimosti; Invisibilities). Sofia: Haini, 2005.
  • Stefanov, Dimitar. Гората на глухарчето (Gorata na gluharcheto; The Forest of the Dandelion). Sofia: Bulgarski pisatel, 1988.
  • Sugarev, Edvin. Калейдоскоп: стихотворения (Kaleydoskop: stihotvoreniya; Kaleidoscope: Poetry). Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Hristo G. Danov, 1990. In Bulgarian.
  • Tchouhov, Petar. Безопасни игли / Safety Pins (Bezopasni igli). Sofia: Ciela, 2010. 55 haiku originally written in English.
  • Yankova, Ivanka. Утре ще бъдем пак будни: Хайку (Utre shte badem pak budni: Haiku) (Tomorrow We’ll Be Awake Again: Haiku). Plovdiv, Bulgaria: IMI, 2004.

Sources / Further Reading (Online)

Authors: Ludmila Balabanova and the Haikupedia Editors

Adapted from: Balabanova, “A History of Haiku in Bulgaria” and “Between the West and the East”


  1. See for example Antoaneta Nikolova’s 2003 book Езикът на пустотата (Ezikat na pustotata; The Language of the Void), in particular, the chapter “Bulgarian Interpretations of Void.” []
  2. Ludmila Balabanova, “Between the West and the East,” World Haiku [No. 1] (2005). []
  3. Ivan Metodiev, ed., Нава (Nava) 1 (1990. []
  4. Metodiev, Нава (Nava) 2, 1991. []
  5. Tchouhov, Preface to Más-más csönd: bolgár haikuantológia (A Different Silence: Bulgarian Haiku Anthology), 2012. []
  6. Author’s translations. []
  7. Balabanova, “A History of Haiku in Bulgaria” (2016): https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/omeka/items/show/1568. []
  8. Balabanova, ed., Огледала / Mirrors / Miroirs (2005). []
  9. http://mayalyubenova.wix.com/jane-haiku-lessons. []
  10. https://vidahaiku.wordpress.com/. []
  11. https://www.bsph.org/index.php?lid=2&view=publishers&show=info&mid=8. []
  12. https://liternet.bg/ []
Updated on November 5, 2023