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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 4th January 2024 — Ludmila Balabanova, featured poet

hosts: Firdaus Parvez & Kala Ramesh

A Thursday Feature.

poet of the month: Ludmila Balabanova

4th January 2024


Ludmila Balabanova is a computer engineer and has a Ph.D. in literature. Her books include nine collections of poetry (four of them haiku and haibun books) and a book of criticism on haiku (Haiku: A Dragonfly under the Hat. The Power of the Unsaid, 2014). She is the editor of the Bulgarian Haiku Anthologies Mirrors (101 Bulgarian Haiku selected and edited by Ludmila Balabanova, 2005, Bulgarian, English and French) and Tuning up the Violins (2022, Bulgarian, English).


Her works have been published in several journals and featured in over 40 anthologies worldwide. Her most important awards are Basho’s 360th Anniversary Haiku Award, Japan, 2004; Touchstone Distinguished Books Award Honorable Mention, 2016 for her haiku book Dewdrops on the Weeds; Touchstone Distinguished Book Award, Winner and HSA Merit Book Award for her collection of haibun, Sunflower Field (Zhanet, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 2019); HSA Haiku Anthology Award Honorable Mention for Tuning up the Violins. She currently lives in Sofia, Bulgaria

You can read about her views on haibun, here:


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THG. Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?

LB I had two published books of poetry when I became interested in haiku. I still write and publish non-haiku books of poetry.

I read a lot of novels as a child, the novels we all grew up with – Mayne Reid, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and some Bulgarian authors too. Quite early I also started reading novels for adults – classics and contemporary authors. Saint-Exupéry and André Maurois were some of my favorite authors. We had a lot of books at home. But I also loved poetry. I knew many poems by heart, often participated in recitation competitions and had many awards. My parents were very proud of me. Once a famous actor gave me an award for recitation and said I would become a great actress. But I answered: “I don't want to become an actress, but to write such great poems.”

I started writing in my late teens when I already knew that writing great poems was very difficult. So I published my first book of poetry much later.

My interest in haiku was sparked by both Japanese and Western haiku. Even before that, my texts were interpreted and defined as close to Zen poetry. I liked contemplative poetry with indirect messages and tried to write like that. So my path to haiku was very natural.


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Sunflower Field


He begs in the street in front of the supermarket. Old man, wearing worn out and dirty clothes. Every time he tells a different story – sometimes his wife is ill, sometimes his daughter has vanished and they have no money to look after the grandson. I’m always in a hurry and never listen to him till the end of the story. I drop a coin in his hat and pass by. He never looks at me. He probably knows what I think about his stories.


rush hour

swift shadows of passers by

barely touch me


This time I’m not in a hurry and decide to hear his whole story. Finally he looks at me for the first time. I understand it is his true story. His eyes are blue like my father’s. My father, wearing a clean shirt, jacket and tie even at home, even when he was already very ill. Dignity, my daughter, dignity before all!

 

looking

at the setting sun

a beggar and i


Frogpond, 42:1, Winter 2019



Ludmila's thoughts on this haibun:

I think a title can offer artistic possibilities. One of my haibun, “Sunflower Field,” is an example of a metaphorical title which makes an associative leap with the rest of the haibun. The prose narrative tells about a city and its alienated people. The title, completely detached from the story, suggests through the image that no matter how different we are, we are all rooted in a small planet, staring at the same insignificant but close star, and perhaps alone in infinite space. From this perspective, the differences do not seem so great. The connection is indirect, culminating in the final haiku:


looking

at the setting sun

a beggar and i


However, overly strict rules are unacceptable in any art. Sometimes, with prose and haiku heavily metaphorized, a simpler title may sound better. I completely agree with these words of Zimmerman: “I am dubious of any claim that only one template for haibun is valid.”


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Prompt

Tell us what haibun means to you.

And give us a haibun that embodies your views.


Haibun outside this prompt is welcome too

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Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!


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PLEASE NOTE:

1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt. Please put your name and country of residence under your poem, it makes the editors' work easier. Thanks.

2. Share your best-polished pieces.

3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written.

Let it simmer for a while.

4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.

5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.


We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.

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