Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006). His most recent book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017.



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

from Anthropos 1 (poems)


(1)   Yield

Our bodies bearing ever in this cold
are gatherers, assembling amen
from yes a hundred, no ten thousandfold,
slowly learning to be wide again,

take on wind the sleet-bringer’s burden,
raft the falling white that weathers hands
in vessels earthy and so little earthen
they break growing to hold. As each disbands

it leaves its freight to float upon the water,
a ring ever expanding in the ply
of hip and hail, river and bone matter,
resembling the reflection of an eye

above, that might in greater light have been
upon it, seeing what here it could not win.


(2)   By the Campfire

Was it my weakness that I did discern
where smoke half witnessed in the body curled
and pointed? Daily did my body burn
to find room for that weakness in this world!

Is want weak? Should smoulder be forgot?
Is marrow carried into sunset years
less load by night, the wolf’s eye not
keenest then on the very fire he fears?

Bright the body burned, while the fang,
following in and after me, cried
white to the open wind, hungering sang.
This the flesh avails: to abide

the long slow seen here strive.
Weeds withered alive; I wait alive.


(3)   Hoard

Where does old light go?
When waves to west at sunset, gladdening
to rise at last unhindered, break into
the road of sight there is a reddening

or goldening upon them as they fall.
Is it their own, an ember each must give
at going, or does sun’s red seedball
ending widen, scatter that they should live?

Mirroring over each other, seen not got,
fire and water marry but not long.
Where does their gold remain – or does it not?
Are gulls seeking after seeking wrong?

Light is the treasure, sight itself the thing.
See the wave. See the fading wing.


(4)   He Leadeth Me

There is a knower, but he bears my name.
He is not other to the pores or eyes
that measured out or in all path I came,
not beyond the clovers as they rise

to bear me up along all meadow’s edge.
What urges in my shoes is not debris
but sharer, comer down and into knowledge
that is the walk I’m helping him to see.

Light is no foreign thing. Whatever sees
goes in the colors that my iris shows,
tents here in eyelid canopies,
faint with me but far in what it knows.

Heat in my heels spreads. He’ll not escape
that bramble blaze. His light will take my shape.

--Lloyd Haft (from Anthropos, Querido 1996)