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Artist of the Week– Maya Lyubenova

February 12, 2011 by · 3 comments

Interview by Violeta Petkova with Maya Lyubenova

Maya Lyubenova: “I wouldn’t say there’s much difference between a photo and a haiku.


How do you understand haiku – is it a kind of art, a way of life or necessity of the spirit?

Haiku is poetry, and poetry is art, but I always say it isn’t just poetry – it’s a way of life. It makes you keep your eyes wide open for life’s wonders … even in the dark. What’s more, we don’t create haiku, but they are given to us and all we need is learn how to write them down.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Do you think that haiku is popular in our country? What are your impressions? Are young people interested in this type of free poetry and are there any limits to freedom of writing haiku?

If we judge from the number of poets who claim to be writing haiku – it seems to be popular.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

The truth is: many write three-line poems which are just poems and have nothing to do with haiku writing. On the other hand, young people are open to haiku, they enjoy reading and some even try writing haiku.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

When I started learning about haiku, I was surprised at the great number of haiku rules – it turned out that the tiniest poetic form had the most rules.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Of course, haiku rules aren’t about counting syllables as many might think after reading the wikipedia definitions. You can read Jane Reichhold’s articles about haiku rules at

You write in Bulgarian and in English. Do you combine successfully those languages, are they complementing each other in the process of creation? When does necessity appear to create in a foreign language and is it useful?

After joining an English-language poetry site in 2006, I tried to translate some of my older poems from Bulgarian into English. It turned out that it was much easier to write poems directly in English and that’s how it all started. There were times when expressing my thoughts and feelings in English seemed easier than in my mother language.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

I tried my hand at rhyming, blank verse and free verse; even had some sonnets published online. When I first read about haiku, I didn’t know I was going to get addicted, I even thought that I would never write one. But, as we all know, one must never say never …

Besides haiku, you are occupied with photography. How did you decide to connect poetry with images?

I wouldn’t say there’s much difference between a photo and a haiku. A professional photographer once told me that my haiku were just like photos with words.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

My photo shooting started as another addiction – in I saw haiga, that’s a haiku in a painting, a drawing or a photo.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

I wanted to combine some of my finest haiku with photos, but didn’t have a camera.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

For some months I painted my pictures in the photoshop, took photos with phones, begged friends to give me some of theirs … until one day I went into a shop and bought my first point-and-shoot digital camera.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Then another, and another, now I have a DSLR with some lens and try to make my photos look more “professional”.

Which moments do you choose to catch and how do you save them? How do you connect them with haiga?

It’s difficult to say how I choose the moments – in fact, the moments seem to choose me; it’s just like that – you walk and you see something which whispers to your senses, “Catch me!” And I take out the camera, which I always carry with me.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Sometimes I write a haiku, instead of shooting a picture, it depends and it always differs.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Not all my photos become haiga, sometimes I have a haiku ready and when I take a photo, I immediately know that this photo is for that haiku.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Sometimes I write a haiku and try to take the photo I need for it, but I don’t always succeed doing it.

Three and a half years ago you had to fight breast cancer. Did haiku and photography help you get better?

Yes, they helped me a lot and I want to share my experience with other women in need. I want to tell them that surviving depends on them.

NewCancer Ward
Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Cancer made me change my attitude to life, love and friendship; I discovered the magic of waking up in the morning and savoring all the greatness of the simple things.

Photo: Maya Lyubenova

Thus I discovered haiku which helped me stick to the moment, and then photography came.

Do you have a favorite quote that would be a little stimulus in your life and if you have, which is it?

“Show, don’t tell.”

Photo:Maya Lyubenova

Maya Lyubenova was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and teaches English in Philip Kutev National School of Folk Arts – Kotel. She writes poetry in English and Bulgarian, her free verse poetry, visual poems and haiku have been published in Frogpond, The World Haiku Review, Shamrock Haiku Journal, Moonset, Haigaonline, Sketchbook- a Journal for Eastern and Western Short Forms, 3Lights Gallery, Notes from the Gean, The Haiku Foundation, Liternet, Public-Republic, Crosspoint, etc. In May 2009 her haiku won the first prize in the Second National Haiku Contest in Bulgaria.

About two years ago photography became her newest passion. Since then she’s taken thousands of photos, some of which she made into fine haiga. A haiga is a haiku in a painting, a drawing or a photo. In the April issue 2009 of the World Haiga Contest, the Jury named Maya Lyubenova the WHA (World Haiku Association) Master Haiga Artist.

Maya’s bilingual haiku collection Flecks of Blue was published in March, 2010 –

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