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.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Live Bird Verses 2 (poems from Where Is the Body...)


(1)   Mixed Flocks

Is there then no light? – how at the last
their flight all is down. Proud crow,
leper starling, all stoop so,
hungry only, after the long fast

seeing was. Flying brought them past
mansions – seen fields of snow,
ermine mirrors, hiding a below
where ripe foul bright rot massed.

Under the boughs that cut off heaven here
they scrounge now for scatter, cold groats,
anything never sun came near –
deep for those dark-hulled blood-boats,

the bodies they must tow, to feed upon
far from the light their eyes have overgone.


(2) White Bird Landing

Weighing the bough, setting his very blood
upon it as his jewel in the pan,
scratching burl and unblossoming bud
to see if they will have him, if he can

be lowered here among them and be still
sitting among their low withering witness,
whether his eyes will neighbor them, wing will
touch them in their down and hard and itness

or whether his body, having light to bear
in forms that are too wide for here to clasp,
will find its better weight again in air,
over the barks that break beneath his grasp.

Dearest of burdens, seers of both sides,
his eyes will go where not the blood abides.


(3)   Too Big Bird

They kept him in a shed; he was too big
and over for the seen sparrow field,
too tall-ly aquiver to kick twig,
scratch sand, waddle the sun-sealed

bounded acre as it dried around.
Wings of his, fitting a night-flier,
hung as a weapon weighing him to ground:
his heaven was harder, not higher.

He beat grass, smote stalk under,
slapped slat till pale fell away
and the one that needed wonder was the wonder,
stumbling out of stubble into day,

gaped by the here-keepers till their eyes
lost him into the darkness of his rise.

--Lloyd Haft (from Where Is the Body That Will Hold?, 1998)