Vladislav Hristov, born in 1976 in Shumen, Bulgaria, is a versatile talent engaged in photography, poetry, prose, and agriculture, holding a doctoral degree in the latter field. He has received numerous awards from Bulgarian and international competitions for haiku, poetry, and short prose. He has been listed among Europe’s 100 most creative haiku authors for three consecutive years. As a member of “The Haiku Foundation,” his haikus have been published in the American Haiku Association’s “Frogpond,” the World Haiku Club’s “World Haiku Review,” and many others. In 2016, his haikus were included in Japan’s Kumamoto University educational program. Hristov is the author of the first Bulgarian haiku textbook, “Fundamentals of Haiku,” and has authored books such as “Children’s Photos,” “Enso,” “Phi,” “Germans,” “Countdown,” “Moving Forward,” “Komorebi,” and “Letters to Lazar.” His texts have been translated into 17 languages.
You have won awards for haiku poetry from the Far East, published books in Bulgarian and German, and have translations of your texts in dozens of languages. Do you feel divided between East and West?
The East and West provide different perspectives on the reality that surrounds us. I don’t feel divided between them; rather, they complement each other. The East offers a sense of tranquillity, allowing me to pause and introspect, discerning the value of the daily noise. The West brings fast-paced energy, keeping me vigilant and on my toes. If writers can harness both worlds’ benefits, their creativity can greatly benefit. As Bulgarians, we stand at the crossroads between East and West – a cliché that holds. Our challenge now is finding the balance, which is no easy feat.
You have successfully navigated various fields and activities – photography, literature, journalism, agriculture, and science. How has each influenced you, and what have they contributed to your personal life?
A diverse general culture is essential for the breadth of any creative individual. While specialization in science may yield results, knowledge of multiple fields in art makes you more liberated and confident in expression. Studying biology exposed me to natural sciences, bringing me closer to the origins of things. You can’t write about flies without closely observing their compound eyes. On the other hand, agriculture revealed many plant world details. My journalistic experience taught me to be socially active and resolute in pursuing the truth. Photography has trained me to be observant, resourceful, and quick to react. I am grateful for the diverse spheres of knowledge I’ve encountered on my journey thus far, as personal experience is arguably the most significant asset.
Which cities and countries have you visited? How did they inspire you to photograph them or write poetry about them?
Every change of residence offers new perspectives, not only on the specific country but also on the people surrounding you. My experience is primarily connected to Germany. After living there, I wrote the book “Germanii.” What is most important for me is that when we live in a foreign country, we show understanding; to do that, we need to know its history. Germany continues to grapple with traumas from World War II. So, before criticizing Germans for their excessive tolerance towards foreigners, consider the context and reasons behind it. I still recall an instance where I discovered a bullet casing while digging a garden in Cologne. When I showed the casing to the homeowner without considering the consequences, he broke down in tears. That’s the kind of trauma I’m referring to.
Understanding the history and context of a country enables us to empathize with the people living there. Through this lens, I’ve drawn inspiration for my photography and writing. Each city and country I’ve visited has left an indelible mark on my work, expanding my horizons and allowing me to capture the essence of these places. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the romantic alleyways of Paris, I strive to convey the unique atmospheres and emotions that each destination evokes. Ultimately, my travels have enriched my creative perspective and deepened my connection with the world.
You recently became a father. How has this new role influenced your motivation and writing?
When I’m content, I tend not to write literary texts. I hope this happiness persists, allowing me to take a little break from writing. Authentic, lived life is the most vibrant and enduring form of art. Parenthood occupies a significant part of my emotions and energy; honestly, I do not intend to channel them into creativity. One must live without necessarily converting every experience into works of art. Besides, I continue to practice photography and haven’t ceased writing journalistic pieces for print and online publications.
What is your recipe for success in poetry, prose, journalism, and photography?
Success is relative, especially in the context of smaller literary traditions and markets like the Bulgarian one. The most meaningful success is bringing joy to a friend with a new book or photo, offering an escape from everyday concerns, providing a glimmer of hope, or simply putting a smile on their face. The only formula for reaching an audience’s heart is for the author to be honest with themselves. If they can “bare their soul” without shame or anxiety, they’ll realize they are no better than anyone else. If our talents make us more human, then they are a gift. However, if they separate us from others, leading us to believe we are superior, this is not a talent but a curse.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
I believe that every author is an unconscious compilation of their favorite authors. In this sense, meaningful writing requires purposeful reading. A website invited me to share the influential books that have shaped me as a reader; I think the list turned out well, although it could be expanded with many more titles: HIGHVIEWART.
In poetry, many authors have influenced me; I discovered them at different stages of my life, and they left distinct traces and impressions within me. For haiku – Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki. Among Bulgarian authors – Kosta Pavlov, Georgi Rupchev, Binio Ivanov, Ivan Metodiev. Regarding foreign authors – Rimbaud, Breton, Sandrar, Vasko Popa. Lately, I have felt a strong connection to Imre Oravecz.
Which musical styles, performers, and bands do you prefer?
In the late 80s, I discovered new wave culture through the music of Depeche Mode and The Cure, as well as local bands like “New Generation,” “Review,” “Class,” and “Violet General.” Later, in college, I gravitated more towards punk, dark, blues, and psychedelic music from The Doors, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Iggy Pop. Around that time, I delved into the vast world of jazz with the brilliant music of legends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Since then, I have been enjoying jazz in all its variety. Jazz liberates the senses and presents numerous pathways within each composition. It is also music made by friends, for friends.
What can we expect from you after “Letters to Lazar”?
“Letters to Lazar” was the fruit of 20 years of maturation; the texts slowly and insistently accumulated, and thus the book was formed. As I mentioned, I am working on an extensive collection of short prose pieces I have written over the years. It will include my first book of short stories, “Pictures of Children,” in a revised version. There are over 300 short texts, some of which are one-line novels. I love minimalism in all its forms!
Link to Vladislav Hristov’s selected haiku pieces in English.
Link to Vladislav Hristov’s photography.