BRUSSELS — European Union President Herman van Rompuy published a book of Haiku on Thursday, saying the dreamy Japanese poetry offers relief from a chaotic world.
"Our time is in need of simplicity," Van Rompuy, 62, told friends at the Belgian parliament marking the publication of 95 of his Haiku – unrhymed three-line poems with 17 syllables in all.
The Dutch-speaking former Belgian premier was little known when he became EU president Jan. 1, the surprise choice of the leaders of the 27 EU nations.
"I don't think I will set a trend" at the EU, Van Rompuy said of his Haiku hobby.
In his book – called simply Haiku – his poems in the original Dutch language appear on the recto pages. The verso pages show the translations in English, French, German and Latin.
Van Rompuy said what appeals to him in Haiku – which means "playful verse" – are references to nature and "the great wheel of life" in the Buddhist tradition.
"Haiku is an awakening of the spirit. Away from technocratic rationality, away from the sophistication, attention seeking and 'glitter,'" he said.
In Haiku the first and the last line each contain five syllables and the middle line seven. Within these strict confines the poet seeks to express an intense experience of joy or surprise.
Here are two samples of how Van Rompuy does that:
"Around six, birds / ushering in the morning / audible spring."
"The cold of frost chisels / fine shoe-tracks in the clay / tomorrow mud day"
Van Rompuy began showing off his fascination with haiku last October when he concluded a speech in Brussels with a poem.
"I created a momentum which has been hard to stop ever since," he writes in the foreword of his book. "I have been flooded with volumes of Haiku poets from all over Europe and by poems from people who suddenly feel a calling to Haiku."
Worldwide there are only 4,000 or so volumes, often no more than booklets, of Haiku.