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.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 3)


[This is my English adaptation of the second of three long ‘parts’ or books comprised in Gorter’s Liedjes, first published posthumously in 1930. For technical reasons, I am posting this before the first and third books. The numbers in square brackets before each poem refer to the page numbers in the Dutch original as reprinted in 1981 by Uitgeverij de Arbeiderspers.
Two earlier postings, both under the October 2013 archive of this blog, have contained translations of Gorter’s highly experimental, often erotic Verses. The Liedjes represent his supreme effort to combine the love for a woman with the love for humanity as he conceived it in his Socialist and Communist political ideals. Here, the beautiful woman, the ‘Lady’ or ‘Maiden,’ stands both for herself and for the ‘new humankind’ whom Gorter hoped the Revolution would bring into being.[1] – L.H.]



from Lyrics (Liedjes)
by Herman Gorter (1864-1927)

edited and translated by Lloyd Haft

BOOK TWO: THE COMING OF THE REVOLUTION

I.

[105]

Light of all the All!
Once you came here living,
seeking, quivering,
tall and slender skimming,
pearl of crystal,
out of all unsureness
to the shore dividing
knowing
and unknowing.

And you lived, swaying
whichever way the inner would,
beauty-feathered reed, bending
into every wind.
Beautifully high, inclined
to Love!
Inclined to love,
to love as crystal!
Beloved!

Light! clear
light! in which the human clears,
in which I slake my thirst
o Mistress.

[106]

And now you slowly
come to know,
through strife,
yourself the Light of all of All!
Softly shine your crystal eyes
in which are all the brightnesses
of water and of light:
the way to your heart
a valley,
a woe of clarity.

Someday you’ll be one
with all of All,
your golden limbs extending
through all knowledges,
all shores...

Light! clear
light! in you humanity,
in you I slake my thirst
o Mistress.

[108]

O endless golden
spirit radiant,
Humanity,
it’s you we love.

[110]

Rejoice on earth! Rejoice!
Lift heavenwards your mouths
grown up to one in joy
for Love is found.


II.

[116]

Over the white ice
in the sun’s golden shine
between the green of trees,
over that dark spring,
gliding through that palace
is the Music of Dreams.

[117]

Over the white ice
in the sun’s golden shine
between the green of trees,
gliding through that unseen
palace is the Source of Dreams:
the Music.

[118]

Silent we stand, two gulls
on the ice –
around us nothing stirring:
centuries:
the palace of the world.

[122]

Pride!
Up from the source
through fire
to the sun.

[123]

A snowy hill
white as a gull
blue and bold
in the pure gold.

[124]

A snowy hill
white as a gull
dizzily bright
with sparkling light.

[125]

The sea one blue meadow,
grassless, greenpale,
and one white wave – a flowering
in wideness without end.

[126]

Close by the sea
in the high dunes
a stream arises –
gentle is that tract
gently slanting,
full of flower is that clime.

[127]

I see you from afar,
Beloved,
image writ in stars
of naught but love.

[128]

Like a bird
through the pearling light
I soar through the height,
the light of the world.

[129]

Great the white gull goes
in freedom bred,
wings fine as snow
in wideness spread.

[130]

White as snow
a gull goes
flying where the sea
and the blue cease.

[131]

As the dove
soars in the light –
so I soar in the light
of love.

[134]

Even the finest crystal,
finest atom, seem –
stuff that All’s built of –
by light of beauty, love’s dream.

[138]

In the blue water
a strand of silver sand:
on this blond coast
the gulls come to rest.

[139]

Border
of sea, blue land
with no end,
never enhemmed,
source beshone
by stars alone.

[148]

Over the wave-rich sea
goes the lonesome wind
till he can find
another kingdom, wider, new, free.

[150]

Naked
she nears
and the rest disappears,
fading before her appearance
veined through with silence
in air
bare.

[151]

You near,
veined through with silence
now, Beloved
in clouds of fire and blood...
all one love.

[159]

O Golden Spirit
of freedom –
now I’m coming,
thrusting ever clearer, whiter, golder
into Joy, your golden body.

III.

[169]

And wordlessly I feel myself
becoming one with her – in common
that was long in coming.

[170]

That deep far beaming
by night and by light – translating
All of the All into feeling:
blessed she, face upward,
from foot on up to visage getting
me, as after endlessless of veering
I pour myself into my net –
of Light.

[171]

The Spirit of Music
came down and lay
as a soul all of crystal
under blue day.

[172]

Like a lightcrystal feather,
a crystalline soul
here in the blue weather
of harmony, All in the All.

[172]

On her back she lay
backward gazing
into herself. Into joy.

[174]

My Beloved
as water pure
came into the fire
of love.

[175]

The glistening fount
became the sky,
the gentle sun.

[176]

In downy repose
she naked lay;
her thought arose
like a bloom in the sky.

[177]

Soft as a velvet
jewel
was her gaze
of joy.

[178-179]

‘My thoughts...
Where have they gone?
gold and white beyond all bourne,
tender, full of love, disrobed...

when love came into me
my Love
I welled
full.

But what is that in there?
What is within?
How could I know. The peace my soul is in
is all of light

and what I see
is naught but light,
naught but love,
the light is my beloved.’

[181]

Dreaming,
all her body still,
in her averted gaze the firm,
the gentle moment’s will.

[182]

She lay supine,
her head full high,
and on her eyes, unopened, glinted
gladness given.

[183]

The radiant Maiden
bright as if in dawning
from the deepest fount
grew golden in the light of sun.

[184]

The all-radiant
pearl of all the years
grew heaven-white and gold
with her Beloved.

[185]

The all-radiant
that the years had seen
in water, mountain, wood –
became white light of Love.

[186]

Deep into the fount
the sun finally fell.
And the fount
rose to heaven.

[187]

In my arms
the luminous fount
turned to heaven.
I saw her face swimming
with heaven all around it,
saw her spirit swimming
in heaven.

[196]

Out of the dark of earth
arises light –
all of All suspended in the light
of love.



[1] My post ‘Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 1),’ in the October 2013 archive, includs a brief introduction. For a good overall introduction to Gorter’s life and work by Paul Vincent, see

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Waterwegen (twee gedichten)


GEUL

Daar stroomt het:
waar kolk naar kolk,

wiel naar wiel doorwil,
leeg in leeg doorlengt,

lus aan lus reikt,
oor naar oor open, door-

zwijgend horend.



VAART

Van kolk naar kolk beschrijft de stroom,
laat de lijnen komen

die ontbindende verbinden,
wissende doen weten:

waar het komt
daar zal ik zien,

waar het klinkt
daar zal ik zingen:

ademend beamende
van oog tot oog.

--Lloyd Haft

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lichtgaten (gedicht)


Altijd wist ik ramen mij
nabij, vensters,

bressen in de lange muur
van mensen met hun woorden,

poorten van een licht dat niet verluidde,
gloren zonder galm.

Nis met altijd nog
een nis erachter: uit-

sparing, in-
dieping, zien,

ademen: want licht en adem
komen samen,

worden waar ik nader één:
één met één erachter in nog niet:

nis waar het altijd wakend licht
mij altijd nader wacht.


--Lloyd Haft

Friday, November 8, 2013

Poems by Willem Hussem (Part 1)


Willem Hussem (1900-1974) was a Dutch artist and poet of the post-World War II period. After decades of experiment and development, in the 1960s he came out with a strong voice of his own in both fields, producing works that are still being studied and appreciated. Opinions differ as to why he did not win greater fame. It has been suggested that he would have done better to live in the wide-open world of Amsterdam rather than staying in The Hague, or better still to emigrate to the United States. In any case, in the Netherlands of his day it was not easy for artists of other plumages to compete with the better publicized painters associated with the Cobra group.
        Hussem’s poetry reflects his artistic and philosophical interest in the Far East. He wrote more than a thousand short, trenchant poems: a genre that in Dutch was sometimes called just the korte gedicht or ‘short poem,’ and sometimes jokingly ‘white poetry’ because the printed pages remained mostly white. Built mostly on visual perceptions and nature images, his poems sometimes suggest the haiku but do not stick to its conventions and restrictions. In 1965 Hussem was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for Dutch poetry.
Though Hussem did not read Chinese, he published well-considered reworkings of classical Chinese verse based on existing translations. His versions of the Tang-dynasty poet Wang Wei, in particular, are among the best I have ever seen.
His best-liked poems have been reprinted in various editions. I have consulted the originals in volumes titled Zet het blauw van de zee..., Zienderogen, Ruimte vergt jaren groei, Met inkt zeggen, Motet, Voor twee scharren blauwbekken, Breels aan de vleet, and Schaduw van de hand.


(1) 

people are clouds
wherever they come
it's overcast

(2)

put the blue
of the sea
up against the blue
of the sky
brush the white
of a sail into it
and the wind
comes up

(3)

by the hearth
all that wood
for a single fire

warmth takes years
to grow


(4)

scoop up water
from the rain barrel
don't wait till it's
a cloud again


(5)

rural the setting
by dusky light
a house in an older style
the owner asks me in
the wooden walls surrounding
don’t hem me in
unnoticed at first my host
ferries me across a river
we moor by a green piece of land
in the same dusky light
this ground goes with the house he says
and leaves me alone


(6)

vanished stars
shining still
in the night
dying can’t
hold back light

(7)

where the trees blossom
where the fruits come
the top of the mountain
stays under snow

(8)

whether you laugh
or cry
you’re on your way

(9)

the setting sun
ripens in the trees
at the end of the path

(10)

last year
a dead branch
now glowing charcoal

(11)

the river
that can’t talk
tells of sunset

(12)

high in the mountains
there are no more paths
only the rain
finds a way

(13)

the ebb took longing along
the flood brings it back in breakers

(14)

last night sea and sky
were one
now at dawn’s coming
they drift apart

(15)

cloudless sky
motionless sea
horizon as a hinge
a shell opens

(16)

in the silence of morning
the cry of an oriole
the sound colors the forest

(17)

in one leap
a fish splits the cloud
on the water’s surface

(18)

now that the sun shines
the mud glistens

(19)

at the moment
you asked me for a match
lightning struck
fire and wind now
blazing between us


(20)

shadows shoving
across the land
climbing the dune
gliding into the ocean
dark fishes
leaving shore behind

--translated by Lloyd Haft

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 2)



This is the second installment of my selections from the controversial ‘verses’ of the famous Dutch poet Herman Gorter (1864-1927). For a brief introduction to Gorter, see Part 1 under the October 2013 archive on this blog.
In this second group of poems, the page numbers refer to the originals as published in two sources. ‘VW 6’ is volume 6 of Gorter’s Verzamelde werken (Collected works), published in 1950 by Van Dieshoeck and Querido. ‘Athenaeum’ refers to Herman Gorter, Verzamelde lyriek tot 1905, published by Athenaeum-Polak en van Gennep in 1977.

[VW 6, p. 202]

Deepest pain wrings onto the heart
figures of love clear
and comely as the darkness
on a shell, ivory-pure.


[VW 6, p. 233]

Like the cool corridors
of an empty house, full
of a gleam, a soft
whisper along the walls
of an absence –
so my soul is full
with your presence.


[Athenaeum p. 219]

The sun hints
in near glints:
the windowglass,
summerpitterpatter.

And the sparrows’ rasped
sounding – even that
the white full-riped
light’s found in.


[Athenaeum p. 220]

In a selfforgotten corner
of the scent of oaks, sitting far and small before
the major stage, the vaster mass of trees –
see how their interplaying dreams
them on and outward, into skies of silver –
first they’re trees, then they’re the beginnings
of silver air, and others lying higher,
more together, out we-wider.
While set-in-motion evening comes:
green trees standing at the ready, waiting dumb.


[Athenaeum p. 228]

The open and so clear earth-life,
and in it stands my eye-life,
warm breath leaving my lips,
ears ringing in the inarticulate.
The room hangs high, and at the window
the silent table stands under the ribs
of curtains – outside, the wordless land-lay
of things perceptible along the ways.
The air is far, very far,
hurting it’s so far –
as the eyes go back through the clear
of disappearance.


[Athenaeum p. 232]

The grass has started in
on night: the calm-sunned garden,
sky still unthinking,
light so unbroken.

Trees white as buckwheat
hang in quiet beauty
but the loose chestnut leaves
are skittish, starting to feel
the weight of the wind.


[Athenaeum p. 233]

The mistrain comes strewing
its claims athwart the green hymns of spruces
while they stand shrugging their shoulders
at how little tangles matter.
Sorrow spreads in corners of the forest:
drab indifferent moldy
mists moving over the floes
of trees that in their waving
are dissolving into sky.


[Athenaeum 403]

O Love, it is as if all colors,
now you’re lying under me,
go forth from in your face
to paint the world.
It is as if your face becomes
the all of All, your colors flowing
through the atmosphere.
Your face: it colors all, it is the all.
It is as if in your face I see
all of life, all of nature’s yielding,
risen, here cohering
in a single wave: your face. It is
her body’s crown that lies here unresisting.

O let me say in silence that I love you,
and prove to you in silence that I love you:
I fill you with my all, feel your inward,
how yielding it is, and from how deep.
In the high-as-heaven of the highest joy,
into the high-as-heaven, the ideal –
in I thrust through you. A dome of joy
comes open: into it through you I rise.


--translated by Lloyd Haft

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 1)


Herman Gorter (1864-1927) is one of the all-time great Dutch poets.[1] Ironically, though his name is almost a household word, he is most commonly remembered for what many of his devotees, including me, do not consider his best work. He broke into fame with Mei (May), a long story poem which was published when he was only twenty-four. In subsequent books, starting with Verzen (Verses, 1890), he wrote in a style which combined intense exploratory lyricism with a freewheeling approach to language. Changing the spelling or even the sound of words to make them rhyme, inventing his own words, using words in an archaic or dialect sense – all these devices went into Gorter’s own brand of Dutch, making it a rich but challenging brew for reader and translator alike. Tastes differ; Gorter’s linguistic fireworks seem brash to some readers, brilliant to others. Even highly educated and well-read Dutch speakers are not always sure just what a given phrase means, or which of its alternative possibilities is most likely to apply.
        The idiosyncracy of Gorter’s language was one thing which put off a certain proportion of readers; in the long run another was his emerging political stance. Gorter believed that every human being is motivated by three fundamental factors: self-preservation or self-love, the sex instinct or love for the opposite sex, and the communal instinct or love for the community. This last factor he personally identified, much to the dismay of many, with the ideals of socialism and communism. Difficult as it might seem to combine these three factors plausibly in an idealized ‘other’ whom the lyrical self could address in poetry, Gorter tried to do so. His supreme effort along these lines was the long poetic sequence Liedjes (Lyrics), first published posthumously in 1930. I have made a somewhat abridged English adaptation of this strangely beautiful work and hope to release it shortly.
        Gorter’s ‘verses’ were eventually republished in a confusing variety of editions. The following translations are based on the text of the original 1890 edition as reprinted with annotations by Enno Endt in Herman Gorter, Verzen: De editie van 1890 met een inleiding en annotaties van Enno Endt, Amsterdam: Athenaeum – Polak en van Gennep, 1977. The page numbers refer to this 1977 edition. My translations do not rigidly reproduce the rhyme-schemes of the original, but they do, I think, at least fairly represent the overall sound and texture of Gorter’s verse.


[1890 p. 7]

When times were leaf-still, long gone by,
born she was, in autumn hush a bloom
in bleak lightweepings standing pale light –
rain is what the clouds around her do.

Pale she stood her light amidst all drear,
keeping light eyes, blonde hair spreading near her,
tears at many an hour, white of hands –
a poor light girl light-famished.

Bring upon her color of bloomglow,
your blood-red, o new season that is now.


[1890 p. 11]

We beings of silver, lights of mist, growths
neighboring each other uncertain, wanted light:
in mists of dark our great needs
foreign in shimmering mist, for light –
tender beginning and smiling shine,
lightest rising, shunning decline,
laughing as sure, joyful by light,
waving and fleeting, looking lashes fleeting back,
willows of light, ribbons of light, whitish silver
waterish light, luring light, scythes of shivering light,
sheathes and bayonets of light – army of light.

Our flesh blooming with light, gorging on light,
hearts swelling with light, breaking light,
eyes gossamer light, crystal crowns of light.


[1890 pp. 12-14]

You are a white and silent shine of snow,
you are a shivering sea of seashine.

You are a lilymaiden shimmerwhite,
you are a palehood fluttering wide.

You are the open, the white, the willing,
the wanting beaming flaming quivering light.


[1890 p. 25]

Pallor of grey,
bit of rain –
wet on the roofs the wind
sings its meager lay.

Slowly humans undergo.
They call it work:
that sober daily going,
never discerning.

O, for a lass to bloom this way
in brightish pale, now a heady
lilyhood and blearing
unto me, the warm, the weary.


[1980 p. 26]

A child ever longing
as a great bloom’s heart, hanging
open, born that way
in the dawning day.


[1890 p. 31]

I saw you then –
and there was much of light,
the room was a bloom, tight
bud now shining out and open,
buzzed by rings of light.

Nothing that I thought or said.
You looked at me and all my head
came open windblown wide
as if burned open in a summer dawn
above a wide and wordly open lawn –
so, once was I
within that chamber red and golden-lined
by gas-gold flamelight flown on rowing
wings already beating wide
the fragile air
the trembling air
that flees us as we go –
hear hear, o I hear it,
your tender drythroat voice above me
speaking, speaking lower near me,
scenting of your flesh,
your shining out, your silent living flesh –
and I was bursting with your eyeing
tingling naked eyeing
from that silent moving gaze,
that trembling and that moving
of your hands your head your feet
as even now it does to me.
If only I could find
that fleet outflowing galaxy,
the river of words: that I could say
this all before I die away
in floating through my life.
But o, the tingling tints within
the giant doors of light
that are sunsummer’s –
all the belightedness of light,
the high and holy mass
of all the days
and goldlight evenshine
in the reddened room, that are the things
she was within,
body diaphanous
as glass and lightful – may the two of us
be read to the end forever, in me
that saw her once and only
in your red and white and golden day.

Now let me go on shaking,
let me tremble on away
in words, so henceforth not a thing there is
but her belightedness.


[1890 p. 81]

Far off I saw fair waters,
before me was a gentle splashing:
voice that I have heard before,
and all around was still: and that
I heard still more than every spat
of little words so softly said.
All was still except the voice of splashing,
behind it were fair waters,
and I heard the near words moving
through a silence glassy, luminous.


[1890 p. 113]

There was much yellow oakengolden
light risen and grown in green, so much
shuddering of bluegolden
quaking white, for an instant grey
when the eye was hurt
by sunny piercing pain.

Mirror was the air as if
I walked now everywhere,
swollen hot as if I now
were myriad.


[1890 p. 114]

There was snow on that moss,
she lay upon it loosened,
her lips wet and open,
eyes wet and open.

Her hand tapped the ground,
unhurried finger white,
her shoulders shaping round
in blue on snowwhite.

The eyes beneath me
pearl ellipses –
she seemed a part of me
from me eclipsing.


[1890 p. 122]

The lamp shines, the room is open –
outside, I hear the wind going.
The leaves, the flapping leaves,
the springflapping leaves – the nightflapping leaves,
green and black and limp –
their limp handclap, wet lips –
hear it blowing up and all the ways away,
there they come again –
that gentle-weaponed undercover skirmish,
banging by turns
hear them go, far away,
the night is open,
wide as a floodgate –
grazing my hand a cool kiss, a stroking –
light as if in smoke enshone,
almost as if to go to sleep
in light’s seeming, clingleafed up and down.


[1890 p. 123]

Always that metal rustling of the metal-beaming sea
and the wild-lighted crashing, cruel willowwhipping waves,
the flashing biting, fine-rayed infinite,
the overwidespread flooding walling in,
and yet that rolling in, full wet blue,
waterful of spraying drift,
fine to the eye, eye-quenching dawn of water
with over it head-on streamers of wind –
that ladies’ cheeks go on in, blooming so close by
in parasolsilver, fine-dangled hands
gemlike in eyeshine.


[1890 p. 124]

The sea beyond grey, silverish, rainish, leafery
spread in a circle of clouds
here, o here fragile quiet green
widened into the wide,
my head, o my head in the weak and easeful air –
my eyes so cool, so rained for the air,
my hands so warmish hanging –
o in a balmy sad surround by the going
cliffish wave-astraying sea
I held my head in hands –
but sprayish the glitterish rustling, thunderwhisper,
gurgling murmur, tongueflash leaking –
the blood in my hand is dry –
now shadowish, seaful sea-ish where I see it.


[1890 p. 125]

The waves and their falling more than onward
with their flaunting so preening so silly so overall forgotten
all all all always bursting to be,
and the sinking together, no more wishing to be
the whole but deep and under others, they sink expiring
with their blandly loyal water-human eyes,
each mumbling to other, standing under another
all of them lower and lower and not a one higher –
thundering up they go to the preening high and lonely
sky that lights the world –
gulping full sheering rocking striped dark-terraced
fullgreen whitefoam breasting foam-dribbling water,
still water but turning to light, yet lightly,
yet staring lovely lonely, the mute godworldly light
of heaven – and here the lowly greenstroked grass
laid to the wind, eyeing away, tending back
to the trees in the clumped quiet ground.

--Translated by Lloyd Haft



[1] For a good overall introduction to Gorter’s life and work by Paul Vincent, see