Column: Haiku Herman21 November 2009 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
His face made the headlines on TV and it was the first time I became aware of him. At first I thought they were announcing a repeat of the children’s TV series Catweazle, about the 11th century wizard who travels through time.
Well, the man I saw on television certainly looked as though he had only just made his first acquaintance with electric lighting. However I wasn’t looking at Catweazle but instead it was my first glimpse of the new European president, Herman Van Rompuy!
Herman writes haiku and they appear on his website. At long last a politician who produces poems! Now he hasn’t tackled the sonnet nor has he taken on free form, no Herman, an unpretentious chap, goes for the stylised simplicity of haiku.
Consider this example:
That’s the end of the Copenhagen Climate Treaty, or maybe he is referring to being named the new EU President. Herman started out looking rather like a puddle but he received increasingly warm support from EU government leaders and heads of state and ended up on cloud nine.
Herman is bringing haiku everywhere. He has the knack for saying what needs to be said in just 17 syllables. This earned him the nicknames ‘Zen Prime Minister’ and ‘Haiku Herman’.
I find this quite charming, a new EU President who tries his hand at poetry. It’s a small start. He even puts a ‘Poem of the Month’ on his website. This isn’t haiku but something much more substantial. It shows Herman is foremost an admirer of poetry.
It is not always to the benefit of poetry when a celebrity takes an interest in writing poems. Someone who springs to mind is the current coach of Bayern Munich, Louis van Gaal, whose claim to poetic fame stems from this utterance: ‘Am I the one that is so clever, or are you just quite thick?’
However, you ought to judge for yourself. When he was appointed by Ajax, he made another contribution to poetry:
I catch up with my feelings really ha ha
(Mr van Gaal was appointed Technical Director of Ajax)
Louis is desperate to make it rhyme. It is a common affliction of poets who are at the beginning of their career. I’m glad we’ve been saved from having to read his poem celebrating his employment with Bayern. It doesn’t bear thinking about it.
There I go to Bayern München
In general, footballers do not make great poets, and the entire body of work created by Ruud Gullit can be consolidated in ‘sexy football’.
Sometimes we are lucky and Johan Cruijff provided one of these gems: ‘En Un Momento Dado’. This was premiered during a press conference in 1999 when he came up with a literal translation into Spanish of the Dutch expression: ‘at a certain moment’.
This expression was entirely new to the Spanish and ‘Dado’ in fact indicates an act of God, so quite unintentionally, Cruijff had created poetry.
Actually one of my favourite dreams is: being introduced as the new coach of Barcelona at a press conference. The chairman announces: ‘We are taking a new direction and have appointed a poet.’ It has an immediate effect, the bench is smoking again.
The footballers shake and shudder, now they are required to say a lot in very few words. Up until now they were allowed to use as many words as they wanted to say very little.
Just an example: ‘If they hadn’t scored a goal and we had put one in to equalise, it would have been a totally different game.’
If I was the coach I would implement a very tough regime, for starters, no playing of cards in the players bus. After having played a handball during the qualifying game of France versus Ireland, Thierry Henry impressively recites the poem ‘The Hand of God’.
Before a game I instruct the players: ‘Don’t forget to alliterate when addressing the referee.’ So, for example, after it becomes clear that they have played a handball they’re compelled to say something like: ‘I’m repentant ref.’
If the striker fights his way past three men during a game, I shout enthusiastically: ‘Enjambment!’ ‘Enjambment’ is the continuation of a sentence or clause over a line-break, an excellent metaphor for the perfect pass.
There is no answer to that and if you are not convinced, consult Herman Van Rompuy.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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