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.



Monday, March 14, 2011

Helga: Poems (from Atlantis)

portraits from the Helga Suite by Andrew Wyeth


(1)   Order

The ways of the wind are nothing,
tracts and peninsulas pale beside
your fingernail.

This is the hand: clay and craving
one. Where so much light is
stir engenders;
shift a hip

and let a mountain bloom. Length,
radiance from thumb to forefinger makes,

breaks. The tangible sheet
groans, crinkles to the gavel
of your joyful fist.


(2)   Nameless

Treasure it now
in curtain and cover,

now, for the light of this world hunts
lips for itself: tenderest
of tinder.

Autumn wind, fond wind
flash-happy, trapper,

sparks down your neck’s most
answering rise.


(3)   Source

Your mouth is an opening in light,
end point fleetingly
extended, past lines’ accord.

In darkness and presence
deep soft
slopes lean
quiet nearer
home, hear the widening

of mine, this hour perhaps
of all your eyes.


(4)   Seaside

With one foot jutting out
of dream, you last in relation
to sand, to this desert

of warmth and knowing
where I sang you, so
beseechingly saw.

With the shade of your body beside you
you’re floating now on oceans
of what had no color here,

what after in memory
rose may gleam or bluish
in surf’s burning.


(5)   Guise

Now I would return
as ‘man in garb’, in knottedness
of flesh and form.

As all the rest: so still,
so surely stuck between
the stone and flame:

where granite gapes
I raise my head.

Among such boulders
even weakish light
is overmuch,

where my shadow finds toehold
in unthinkable rifts

and even the lizard no longer
shifts at my footfall,

knower of this lesser,
lover of what now would weary be.


(6)   Sights

The farther you get from me
the truer I tell your

drift: shoulder
called from after, coat on
shoulder, snow on
coat, go on.

Like white tablets
flakes fall,
friendly as eyes

of foxes. In phases,
doses I get you
gone and in crosshairs

--Lloyd Haft (from Atlantis, Querido 1993)