Speech by President of the European Council
Herman Van Rompuy

Van Rompuy

Haiku Post-Box Ceremony, April 20 2012.

I discovered haiku poetry in the Summer of 2004.  It would take too long to explain the circumstances and the reasons but it happened.

Haiku poetry is in line with my personality.  I like nature and the seasons not as a scientist, not as an ecologist but as an aesthete.  I like conciseness to express myself using as few words as possible whilst being as clear at the same time.  It is the Latin tradition in which I was raised.  And I like the paradox; a surprising and apparently contradictory approach of things.

So, haiku fits me.
There are also other aspects of haiku I cherish: simplicity, certainly in our sophisticated, cynical world and harmony in our world of competition, rivalry and jealousy.

I developed this way of life long before I discovered haiku.  Haiku was in some way a coronation of this behaviour and mindset.  It was a logical consequence.  I came to haiku.  Haiku didn't come to me.

What has poetry to do with politics? Or rather what a poet has to do with politics and vice versa ? There will be links because a man does not change substantially depending on his activity. And yet in each of us resides facets of our personalities, each with its own need for expression. We are all partly 'compartmentalised'. Between poetry and politics I do not see many links. Between poet and politician, there are many more. Thus, a haiku poet, in politics, can not be extravagant, nor super-vain, nor extreme. He should incorporate into his actions a sense of balance, the desire for simplicity and harmony, the feeling of being part of a larger whole. But in contrast, a good politician does not need to be a poet and do not even need to love poetry and, perhaps, a poet best remains  away from political action. In that sense I am a politician-haiku poet rather than a haiku poet-politician!

In any case I made haiku poetry popular in Belgium, and, I can even say, in Europe.  In a lot of places, I am introduced - even in New York ! - with a haiku made by the organisers.  People send me their haikus.  My poetry has even been put to song by famous Belgian musicians.  It has been really a hype over the last two years.  My haiku-book is the best sold poetry book in this country.

So, I'm a big promoter of Japanese culture in Europe.  It is a pleasure and it is politically productive as well.  And as I see here this afternoon, the hype is not over yet !