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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Three prayers from Where Is the Body...(poems)

(1)   Sown

Lord, could I help it that I nearly saw
the colors of the wind? nearly heard
a singing deep in stone? Was it Thy law
I must so closely fail? And Thy word,

which breaks itself into the thousand names,
came broken in my heart. A thousand shivers
to carry were my love; no two were sames;
two raindrops were to me two gleaming rivers.

I loved them all: and so I came divided,
knowing the leaves in green but also brown.
No light fell but it was double-sided,
smithered over the steep roofs of the town

in sharpnesses as of a broken mirror,
showing me break with need to see it nearer.

(2)   Huntsman

Searching the day as ever for Thy word,
I know, Lord, that I shall not find Thy face.
For from a child, I have ever heard
Thou art in ‘truth,’ in ‘spirit’ – not in place.

Yet being made by Thee to need in Thee,
knowing Thy face is far, I seek Thy faces
of harmony – art Thou not harmony? –
where the ash tree’s thin but highest-branching places

are live against the sky – giving to dearth,
to emptiness or heaven where Thou must be
(needing the weak but stabbing shapes of earth
to prod Thee into forms that I can see?)

their little green, yet fuller of life as yet
than the Face I never saw and don’t forget.

(3)   Yoke

Lord, why was a pair of eyes my given?
Given a more than one but less than all? –
I, made for to see, light-driven,
able to see the rise and yet the fall

of sun, but not its staying into more –
circle or aught unnumbered, out of the weather
in ever, where each either with its or
round in a rose’s heart will ring together?

To the single-eyed, a shrub’s but a pennant – gay
flag of the light of a day – but it was more
in me: I saw that blossom brought away
in darkness: and I saw its seed before

it ever opened her in agony
for beauty and for more: for love of me.

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