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 sinological book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017. His newest book of poems in Dutch, Intocht (Introit) has been available as a POD from the American Book Center since June 2018.

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. His newest book of poetry in Dutch is Intocht (Introit), issued by the American Book Center in June 2018.

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. For many years he sang in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

from Anthropos 2 (poems)

(1)   Anthropos

Body is made, not born. It is a sort
of relay race: a thousand handshakes fade,
the one hand survives. Across it, thwart
lines remain, remind of the unmade.

A spider links the moments of its going
by stretching out its spit across the sky,
early and later threaded, all one doing,
never a break between, never an I.

Not so son of woman. All my reach
began from one and lasted till another,
another falling hand, another breach
while heart observed: an armless helpless mother.

Whom shall I give this hand, its thousand flaws,
never a one but longing its way across?

(2)   Exile

Now let my body’s all be used. But how,
who regather red that would not follow,
bleed sap back and into bough,
gasp breath home to heaving hollow?

Shall I tear my hand from its own shadow?
bid lost knees and elbows disengage
from dust that flocked to welcome them, and go
along with me one man, one dance, one rage?

No, wound is me. What could not keep
this pace or stature is my other way.
Let breath be wide and holy bone be deep,
lost together, one in the wait of day.

My body scatters into living whole,
each foot bleeding from a side, a sole.

(3)   Stand

Shall I go to the hills for an answer, find in
pines stunted on some late slope
my new law? Those west ones are thin.
They have height only, none of my hope.

I call them the old names. My grandfather carved
hearts on their faces, cut bark free
and found a knot under. See how the light-starved
longer better ones bend, live on oddly.

Groping wise, their rust branches crawl
where rising is not good, point to a ground
even the rain runs from, let cones fall
seeding in snails’ spittle, starlings’ sound,

knowing in darked query alone’s told
sun’s answer, habitable hold.

--Lloyd Haft (from Anthropos, Querido 1996)