November 25, 2009 / 9:02 AM / 8 years ago

New EU president wins fans in Japan -- as a poet

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Herman Van Rompuy, the European Union's new president, may not be very well known around the world but he's already winning fans in Japan -- as a poet rather than a politician.

Belgium's low-key prime minister is fond of writing haiku -- three-line Japanese poems of just 17 syllables -- and is building a reputation with Japanese poets less than 24 hours after he got the newly-created job.

"We feel very proud that the first EU president ever elected loves haiku," Kaoru Fujimoto, an official of the Haiku International Association, told Reuters in Tokyo. "It's great to know that haiku, which is part of the Japanese culture, is spreading that far."

Van Rompuy, 62, is a frequent writer of haiku, but is perhaps best known for one he wrote about his hair:

"Hair blows in the wind

After years there is still wind

Sadly no more hair."

He has a Web site where all his haiku, written in his native Dutch, are collated here, including this recent offering:

"Puddles wait

For warmth to evaporate

Water becomes a cloud."

Van Rompuy, with his thinning grey hair and spectacles, comes across as a rather reserved intellectual. But Fujimoto said there was deep feeling in his love of haiku, which is said to be therapeutic.

"Haiku is a form of literature that captures each moment by expressing all that you feel in short sentences," she said, adding there were more than two million haiku writers around the world.

Reporting by Marine Hass; editing by David Stamp

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