Arguably better-known for his haiku writing than his role as the first President of the European Council, the Belgian Herman van Rompuy
today took time out of his busy schedule to unveil the first published collection of his poems at a book launch in Brussels.
Mr Van Rompuy's love of the 17-syllable Japanese poems
is well-known in Brussels and he famously showcased his love of the art in October 2009 when he closed a speech about the new tri-presidency of the European Council with the verse - Three waves rolling / together into the harbour / The trio is home.
After regularly publishing his latest creations on his personal blog
, sufficient demand has led to a book deal in which a selection will appear in a hardback collection, simply entitled ‘Haiku
The 40 or so poems in the anthology, all written over the past six years, have been collated under chapter headings such as 'seasons', 'moments' and 'on the road’ and will be available for only a lucky few since only 2,500 copies
of the book have been produced.
The poems have been published in his native Dutch and translated into English, French and Latin.
In the preface to the hardback, Mr Van Rompuy said he was drawn to haiku for its simplicity, compact use of language and its concentration on nature. "Our time is in need of simplicity,
" he said at the book’s launch, "moreover, haiku is brief, which is convenient for people who have no time to labour over long poems.
“Haiku is an awakening of the spirit: away from technocratic rationality, away from the sophistication, attention-seeking and glitter,
” he said, which rather make it sound like a welcome refuge from the world of Belgian and European Union politics.
Mr Van Rompuy was chosen to be president of the European Council
at a summit held back in November 2009 and was hardly a prominent European personality before taking on the role and was seen as a surprise choice. He has been criticised for being 'boring
', however his poems have attracted many fans across the world on the internet, including some masters of the haiku poem from its native Japan.
"I don't think I will set a trend
" within the EU, he confessed somewhat realistically - although you never know, perhaps Jerzy Buzek
will be encouraged to give it a go now!
Joking aside, it will now be interesting to see how José Manuel Barroso
, the European Commission president, will respond to this latest spot of media spotlight for the Belgian, as ever since Mr Van Rompuy entered his new post a power-struggle has been fought over who is the ‘true public face of the EU
The FT’s Tony Barber
speculates that it will “only [be] a matter of time before we stumble across Mr Barroso at Place Luxembourg, strumming an acoustic guitar or dabbing at a watercolour of the European Parliament
”, and while that would be a fabulous draw for journalists and a strong and hilarious candidate for most popular EU-related video on YouTube, it would seem highly unlikely.
Although one of his spokesmen has said “President Barroso’s first love has always been folk music, spoken-word poetry and painting. He just does all the other stuff to the pay the bills
Should you want to purchase a copy of the 128-page collection, it is priced at €16.95 and available from poeziecentrum.be