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 June 2019 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of National Taiwan Normal University. 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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reflections (three poems)


The true net is widest,

stays most open,
catches nothing,

lets in,
lets waves be,

lets the pull be
that fills it in going.

Don’t untie a knot,
don’t dissolve a single eye

till the fin that found it opening
is shining, clearly caught,

fisher and fish a single freight,
one faring.


See how the treetops
bend, seek shelter,
throng around the empty like a hearth,

leave the wind outside,
leave a window at the top,
an open,
eye to let the light be there

and how above to skyward
clouds too seek shelter,
throng around the empty like an eye,
open to the earth they circle.

And where the two,
the eyes are,

there we stand,
we that see the branches,
name the sky,
join the never-shutting circle

holding earth and light together
in a moment’s open,
sheltering the open from the wind.


The names we spoke were never true,
we who never knew where surf would end
and song begin,

scrying always, signing always
under what was there,

coming late to scavenge shells
of what would never feed us,

seeing ever just ahead,
waiting where our feet would follow:

fallen grains, seeds of storm
that seemed to go together,

fall together into shadow shape,
with us in their silence,
speaking only so.

We take away,
gather home
what fell beyond the finding,
whispered out of mind,

called, still
calls for a word

where the wind around us
– all we had to breathe –

roared without reason,
shrieked out unspoken,

broke trees untold.

We heard,
still hear

an after,
a nearer:

hear, never know.

--Lloyd Haft