Accessibility links

EU's 'Haiku Herman' Presents His Poetry To The World

  • Breffni O'Rourke

EU President Herman Van Rompuy (left) and publisher Willy Tibergien present Van Rompuy's collection of haiku at a news conference in Brussels.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy (left) and publisher Willy Tibergien present Van Rompuy's collection of haiku at a news conference in Brussels.

Three waves.
Roll into port together.
The trio is home.


That's a haiku. A poetic form from classical Japanese literature that involves only three nonrhyming lines.

It's deceptively simple. Describing an event in nature, the poem on a secondary level marks the cooperation in 2009 between three EU member states, Belgium, Spain, and Hungary.

This is one of the comparatively few of Herman Van Rompuy's haikus that refers to politics at all. The EU's first president, the 62-year-old Belgian is an unashamed poet, a man who has kept an almost invisible political profile since his appointment in December.

It's no exaggeration to say Van Rompuy is now better known as a literary figure than as the titular leader of the 27-member European bloc.

Here's one about the approaching autumn of life:

The harvest is in,
And the trees are already thinning.
Evening nears.


And here's one about earthquakes, a topical theme at the moment:

The earth trembling
and buries mercilessly.
No Mother Earth.


Van Rompuy's preoccupation with haiku has led to a certain amount of amusement on the part of the Brussels press corps, many of whom have composed their own ditties to accompany stories about him. But he doesn't seem to mind, and invited journalists to today's literary event.

In comments at today's presentation, Van Rompuy drew a comparison between poets and politicians, suggesting that like a haiku writer, a good politician needs the qualities of moderation, directness, and social solidarity.

Van Rompuy said a poet "should incorporate into his action a sense of balance, the desire for simplicity and harmony, the feeling of being part of larger part."

The occasion was quite a glare of publicity for a man who normally works in the shadows.

He is known for his behind-the-scenes efforts as Belgian prime minister in 2008, when he is credited with saving the country from breakup over the interminable bickering between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and French-speaking Walloon populations.

The new anthology of poems is printed in Dutch, with translations in French, English, and -- for the classicists -- Latin. The initial print run is 2,500 copies.
XS
SM
MD
LG