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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yang Lingye 羊令野: Two Poems

Two Poems by Yang Lingye
translated by Lloyd Haft[1]

(1)   To Accompany the Ink-Wash Painting “Looking for the Plum Blossom in a Dream”

like a gentle sleeve
still bearing traces of snow
exuding a fragrance of last night’s wine
scattered flower shadows
printed with waves of subtle scent:
who disturbed them
and splashed them on a scroll of floating ink?

on far-off Orphan Hill
the man who calls the cranes his only children
has wandered off and not yet returned
leaving the cold of countless trees
for the mountain gods who keep lonely vigil
and can that sentimental poet He Xun
go back now, South of the River
and lie dead drunk in the Eastern Pavilion?

at dreamland’s boundary no doubt
the path is blocked by clouds
ask the pines the bamboos
what it is they’re surrounding
a sudden shiver
and the body that awakens is arrayed
in snow nor blossom

(2)   Melting Away

clouds drifting by overhead
the swimmer in the human sea has lost all bearings
just flotsam floating east west as it goes
knowing no end of the ocean
        boundary of sky

what remains is a lone body
robed in common cloth
keening along with the wind
now and then imprinted by flying dust
with memories of another day
like commas marking lines
of an unread dynastic history

the throat of a beggar in the market place
though hoarse with long thirst
keeps loyally crying
in diminished rhythms
a blurred final phrase

why did they melt away
the names written in snowflakes
every cold brush-stroke
a prototype of sculpted ice
and even the thumping heart has turned
to a puddle

[1] First published in Renditions No. 39 (Spring 1993), pp. 108-109.
For other poems by Yang Lingye, see the January 2013 archive on this blog.