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).



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 most recent book of poems (in Dutch) is Deze poelen, deze geest (2008). 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.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Psalm Poems (1-5)


(1)   After Psalm 1

Would I have come a better way
if I had never thought He ought –
you ought – to be?
if wanting you to be were not
the day and night of me?
Was missing you the sin that made me me?
Better to be a tree,
standing not thinking,
rooted cool in water
not in hope like me?
Who can tell me, who besides
my self came this way?
I was an only hoper, not maker,
not knower of the trees. They answer you
where no one ever heard you ask.
Their whispering, their leaf was here
before me on your way. Which is
a long before. I say it is
your way. It is.


(3) After Psalm 3

Scared of what’s in me:
thoughts of a skull
that sees you never,
says: there is no One.
But if there is no One, who helps?
Who is it here that holds my head,
bears my bones upright?
Over the mountains of your hiddenness
a voice traces: mine.
Wherever among the thousand thoughts
is one of you –
I know I’m one who waits for One.


(4) After Psalm 4

At times I thought
I could be sure of you.
Now once again in need I voice,
I say you be. I am, and so
you must have wanted me.
I say, and in the chambers of my heart
I’m heard. I speak of us
together, call us here together
in this voice of need.
Not that it is the home I would have chosen
but you choose to leave me here,
alone but for your silence.
And silence is enough,
if this be you.


(5) After Psalm 5

I who am supposed to be
your image. I seek.
Do you seek too?
And as you do or don’t I am.
The voice they say you made me with
is here: I say I need,
hear me I say.
Hear me not wait:
the day my bones can still be in
is short.
Many may be louder
but I stand for you.
They rage against;
I say discern me yet.
Like them I am in falling
but I stand for you.

--Lloyd Haft