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.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Psalm Poems (119)


After Psalm 119

(1) aleph

Blessed would be the one
whose walk was a way,
treading into light
what the whole heart sought:
who knew the dooms that self has brought
are wrought for you:
a helping you be witnessed
in the need that’s yours and mine.
Am I made to find your track?
Will all my groping come to you?
My praise is honest:
honest as my longing is
to find your truth, and find it in myself.



(2) beth

The search for you is all the heart I have –
and is my heart for nothing?
Your truth hidden in it –
and you think I won’t hear?
I follow what I hope’s your trace,
my heart’s most hidden, rumored
in my lips’ probing.
Your traces are my treasures.
All my thoughts are searchings,
soundings of the need that is
your only way with me.
What’s truth in you be joy in me.



(3) daleth

I seek my soul
and what I see is dung.
Hold me up
as you were said to do.
Feel in my reach for your reasons
your work, your will.
My soul can’t stand alone:
hold me up
as you were said to do.
Between the fragments of my heart
is room enough: my opening
for you.



(3) vau

May what I meet
the wideness be
where all your silence waits:
silence that my answer be
to all the loud and much and here
that tries my trust.
Ask me not too soon:
I still hope for you.
There in your wideness of silence
may my answer be.
All my going wrong is going on:
seeking:
down your track, your time.
Where all the high and wise are loud
your silence is my joy.
All that I throw my hands up in
is nothing but your truth,
nothing but my love:
nothing but of you and me.



(4) zain

You are the one who makes me hope
for you, for the word.
Wherever there’s still word of you
I live.
Whatever the heckler says –
with you I hold
and in that thought am held.
Whatever the blaze I’m lost in
I’ll see it through
and trace you back
and home into your dark.
Yours is the name
that whispers where I breathe.



(5) jod

Are you where my hands started?
Are you where they point?
Let me feel in my fear
your pointing,
your nearing edge of truth.
Let me know that my troubles are truths,
lamps along your ways.
Let me shelter in your wideness;
your silence be my rest.
Let all my path from throe to throe
be pointing: trace to truth.



(6) lamed

Does truth abide
in other than our time?
Will we hear of you
while earth still is?
Your word, your world.
And here I am: bound,
held to both.
If part of your truth weren’t joy
I’d long be gone.
But I remember:
I’m alive.
That also is your truth.
I may not hear your answers
but I need them.
So much is set to wreck me
but I reckon with you.
Though all the earth should tell I’m trapped,
your truth is wider.



(7) pe

Is there a trace of you so small
my soul won’t cling to it?
The strangeness of your traces
is the sense of my soul.
If your word were small
I’d hear it, and sing with you in light.
I open my lips
and my breath catches:
is that your answer?
Am I a sense of what you see?
the sound of my steps your voice?
My face your light,
your truth, your dawn in me?
Your answer is the living water
streaming from my seeking eyes.



(8) koph

My heart is full when I call:
that’s where I hold you.
My calling is my sign of you,
my proof that I was here before the dawn
to seek your word
and in my hope to find.
Longer than the
is the light my eyes are seeking:
seeking with the me I’ll find you in.
Find in your vastness also
my voice: and in your sight my life.
All that surrounds, besets me here
are signs – senses through to you,
true to you.
All that I know will witness you in me.

--Lloyd Haft