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.

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,

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